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The battle over GSAs.

Aidan Grennell, a 17-year-old former president and current member of the gay-straight alliance at James River High School in Richmond, Va., says her group has no agenda other than to foster tolerance for gay students and give them a safe place to talk about their issues. "I've been active in our GSA for four years," she said. "We've talked about a lot of things, but never about sex."

But some state lawmakers argue that GSAs are promoting sexual activity, and they have been pushing legislation--although somewhat unsuccessfully--to limit or ban the clubs, including bills in Utah, Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, and Georgia.

Utah state representative Aaron Tilton and state senator Chris Buttars have been pushing parallel legislation that would allow school districts to ban clubs if they involve "human sexuality," including "promoting or encouraging self-labeling by students in terms of sexual orientation." Although this legislation doesn't target college clubs, Thomas Nelson, 20, copresident of the Lesbian and Gay Student Union at the University of Utah, has made it his mission to stop the bills. He personally spoke with legislators and invited them to a GSA meeting on Salt Lake City's Capitol Hill. "If they weren't willing to come to us, we would go to them," he said. Nelson's resolve may have helped. Although the senate approved Buttars's bill in February, both bills stalled in the house before Utah's legislative general session ended in March.

In Virginia the house passed a bill similar to the proposed Utah legislation, but the senate education and health committee nixed it by a 9-6 vote on March 2. The legislation, introduced by Del. Matthew Lohr, sought to give school boards the power to prohibit the use of school facilities by any club that "promotes" sexual activity. Lohr said the bill was meant to give local school boards the power to take action against clubs that try to promote a "secret agenda."

Tully Satre, a 16-year-old gay activist, founded the Commonwealth Education Equality Virginia Initiative, a group established in January in response to Lohr's bill. "We are here to provide a resource network for gay-straight alliance clubs and GLBT youth in Virginia," Satre said. "We know that GLBT and supportive youth can speak for themselves. CEEVA will simply bring them together as one strong voice."
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Author:Carmack, Cathy
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 11, 2006
Words:378
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