Do not talk about gay people, especially not positively: That was, until Monday, the law for schools in Utah — the result of a “no promo homo” law.
But on Monday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert quietly signed a repeal of the law, following nearly unanimous support in the Senate and nearly unanimous support in the House.
The bill was introduced after Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights sued the state and several school districts last year over the prohibition, arguing that it’s discriminatory. The lawsuit was put on hold to give the legislature time to repeal the old law.
A 2016 report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented the horrifying experience that LGBTQ students can go through in US schools, from physical assault to bullying to outright discrimination by staff. HRW argued that “no promo homo” laws, along with a lack of nondiscrimination measures, such as explicit anti-bullying protections for LGBTQ kids, enable the abuse and discrimination.
But even after Utah’s repeal, “no promo homo” laws remain in place in seven other states, most of which are in the South. These laws aren’t subtle: Alabama’s law, for one, tells schools to communicate that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.”
A 2012 report by HRC found that “LGBT youth are still more than twice as likely as non-LGBT youth to be physically attacked at school, twice as likely to be verbally harassed at school, and twice as likely to be excluded by their peers,” according to HRW.
Such abuse takes a toll on LGBTQ kids: Citing a federal survey, HRW noted, “Data showed that an alarming 42.8 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth respondents had seriously considered suicide in the previous year, and 29.4 percent had attempted suicide, compared with 14.8 percent of heterosexual youth who had seriously considered suicide in the previous year and 6.4 percent of heterosexual youth who had attempted suicide.”
Utah, at least, has taken a long-needed step to remedy that.