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Gay-Straight Alliance Club may disappear

Dale Thompson, Of the Record staff

If Sen. Chris Buttars R-West Jordan gets his legislation passed, the Gay-Straight Alliance Club at Park City High School may not be allowed to meet next year.

Senate Bill 97, Student Club Amendments, passed through the Senate standing committee on Education 4 to 2.

The bill, sponsored by Buttars, outlines what student groups are appropriate at high schools and which are not.

An audience of more than 70 people gathered to watch the meeting which began with Buttars introducing an amendment to SB97 that was requested by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. It removes wording that would prohibit students from declaring their sexual orientation.

Buttars said the legislation is necessary because as it stands now state laws would allow a Texas hold ’em club, a Nazi club or any other extreme group. He feels his legislation introduces a uniform standard for school clubs.

Buttars said he was concerned that clubs, such as gay-straight alliances, are attempting to change the meaning of the word morality.

"There is no immorality, that’s the morality," Buttars said.

He then invited Scott Soldier, a concerned community member, to give a testimony to the committee about the nature of gay-straight alliance clubs.

Soldier related the experience of his niece who attended a gay-straight alliance meeting where he said she was, "targeted, recruited and indoctrinated."

Shortly after Soldier’s testimony the committee was allowed to ask questions.

Sen. Patrice Arent D-Hollady, asked if Buttars’ bill would apply to private schools and he said it did not.

She also questioned why not allow the decision about school clubs to be left to local school boards.

Buttars responded that school board members who chose not to allow gay-straight alliance clubs in their district are concerned about legal action from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Arent said she was concerned that Buttars’ bill might be in conflict with the Federal Equal Access Act. Buttars said with the new amendment it was not in violation.

The Equal Access Act states, "It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings."

Before voting, Buttars again stressed the importance of his bill for school boards.

"They need a consistent standard they can rely on and this is it," he said.

Arent expressed her opposition to SB97, "I don’t see the need for this bill, I think it is going to do more harm than good."

The bill passed, with committee members voting along party lines. Republican committee members were in favor of the bill, while the Democrats opposed it.


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