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Gay-Straight Alliance Student Club Ruling

Court Judge David O. Carter issued a preliminary injunction February 4, 2000, ordering the Orange Unified School District to allow the Gay-Straight Alliance Club at El Modena High School to meet on school grounds while their case proceeds.

"We are delighted," said Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson. "Not only did Judge Carter rule that the students must be allowed to meet under the federal Equal Access Act, he also emphasized that El Modena High's Gay-Straight Alliance Club is in the public interest."

Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation, said, "These students have been courageous in their fight for simple justice. Today's decision will help them grow up believing in America's promise - that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law."

The students who formed the club had challenged school officials' refusal to let them use school facilities like the other 38 clubs that currently meet on campus. They were represented by attorneys from both GLBT legal organizations and major area law firms, People For the American Way Foundation, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Irell & Manella, LLP.

The judge's ruling cited the high incidence of anti-gay hate crimes and the disproportionate rate of suicide among lesbian and gay teenagers, saying in his order that "[t]his injunction is not just about student pursuit of ideas and tolerance for diverse viewpoints. As any concerned parent would understand, this case may involve the protection of life itself."

The ruling lets the club - which more than 50 students have expressed interest in joining - meet freely while the lawsuit continues. Significantly, the judge rejected the school board's argument that the club was initiated by outside adults.

Judge Carter heard argument last month at a hearing in which the club's founders, 15-year-old Anthony Colin and 16-year-old Heather Zetin, testified that they wanted a place safe to talk about what it was like to be a gay teenager and how to deal with harassment in school, and emphasized that adults had not influenced or controlled their efforts.

"These brave students are trying to build support and respect among their classmates," Jon Davidson said as the students' mothers left the courthouse with police protection standing by.

"With this case, the students have been forced to teach a big lesson to the very school officials who should be helping them protect their learning environment. Thanks to Judge Carter's breathtaking ruling, that environment will be safer and fairer soon," said Kendra Huard, Acting Director of People For the American Way Foundation's California Office.

Judge Carter set a status conference in the case for March 27, and said the trial will commence during summer vacation. A copy of the opinion is available by calling 202-467-4999 or 212-809-8585.

(Anthony Colin, et al. v. Orange Unified School District, No. SA CV 99-1461)

More Information:

Court Ruling Expected Friday on School Meetings for Gay-Straight Student Club - February 3, 2000

Orange Co. Students Seek Injunction to Allow GSA Meetings - December 29, 1999

School Board Votes Against Student Gay-Straight Club at El Modena High - December 8, 1999

Read the legal complaint, in Adobe PDF - November 19, 1999

Gay-Straight Alliance Students Sue Orange County High School - November 24, 1999

Students Set Deadline in Gay-Straight Alliance Dispute - November 19, 1999

Statement in Support of Gay-Straight Alliance at El Modena High School - November 18, 1999

El Modena Students Demand Recognition of Gay-Straight Alliance - November 16, 1999

Hostile Climate 1999 Report Documents Rising Tide of Anti-Gay Bigotry - November 9, 1999

PFAWF to Orange Unified School Board: Follow the Law! - November 4, 1999

In pride,


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