While same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 US states there ares still some remaining anti-LGBTI laws functioning at a state level in the United States and the worst of these may be so-called ‘No Promo Homo’ state laws that ban discussion of LGBTI issues in public schools.
Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah all have some type of legislation restricting discussion of homosexuality in the classroom.
The current law in Texas goes even further than just restricting discussion of homosexuality, requiring that children be taught that being gay is ‘not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense’ despite Texas’ sodomy laws being struck down in 2003.
As a result of these laws, teachers in these states who address LGBTI issues in the classroom can still risk being fired.
Writing in a column for Jurist.org, third-year law student at New York’s St John’s University School of Law Ryan Matthews said that it was important that the LGBTI community in America did not think the battle had ended with marriage equality.
‘The US Supreme Court recently decided in favor of same-sex marriage in the long awaited case of Obergefell v. Hodges,’ Matthews wrote,
‘I worry this decision will be seen as the end of the gay rights movement. Mission accomplished, time to go home. The gay rights movement has been so focused on marriage rights that other discriminatory laws have been overlooked or ignored. My hope is that instead the decision will be a stepping stone towards eradicating these laws across the nation.’
Matthews called No Promo Homo laws ‘the most discriminatory laws you have never heard of.’
‘Hidden in education laws, they restrict the promotion of homosexuality in public school classrooms by prohibiting the teaching of homosexuality or requiring its condemnation,’ he wrote.
Matthews said that it worried him that many of his fellow law students couldn’t believe that laws like these were even followed in 2015 when some lawmakers were even trying to strengthen them.
‘These laws are not outdated; indeed they have only been around since the 1980s,’ Matthews wrote.
‘To combat the teachings of acceptance by the 1960’s gay rights movement, these states responded by teaching hate. As the gay rights movement continues to make strides across the nation and same-sex marriage becomes inevitable, states look to No Promo Homo laws as their last avenue for spreading anti-gay beliefs.’
Matthews believes that if challenges to these kinds of laws were to make their to the US Supreme Court it would likely find them unconstitutional.
Matthews believes such laws could be found to breach the First Amendment right to free speech of teachers and students and also the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and hopes that ending No Promo Homo laws will be the next priority for the LGBTI rights movement in the United States.
‘These constitutional arguments against No Promo Homo laws deserve their chance in court,’ Matthews wrote.
‘No Promo Homo laws should be the next item on the gay rights agenda to ensure … equal dignity is given to our students and teachers as well.’
You can read Matthews’ full column on the subject here.