"History repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."--Karl Marx
Ten years ago, Utah's legislators had an apoplectic fit and tried to ban all student clubs when students at Salt Lake City's East High School started a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) student club (a story moving told in the Sundance Award winning documentary Out of the Past, on which I was an associate producer and writer). When the courts found that student clubs that administrators liked were being allowed to meet while those they didn't (like GSA's) were not, the ban was struck down in the late Nineties.
But, as Marx warned, history repeats itself, which it did last week in Utah when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed into law a bill that imposes draconian new rules on high school student clubs including provisions on how groups can form, what they can discuss in their meetings, who can join, and what a principal must do if rules are violated are addressed. (Details in the March 17 New York Times)
No responsible educator wanted this law. The State Board of Education opposed the bill and Carol Lear, a lawyer for the board, said, "It's just mean-spirited. It discourages students from having organizations that would be helpful and mutually supportive and that would be safer for them than being outside the school."
So who is the mean-spirited Moron behind this?
Meet State Senator D. Chris Buttars, the man the Salt Lake City Weekly named "BEST INSANE POLITICIAN" and a longtime foe of Gay-Straight Alliances who has been introducing bills for years designed to restrict or eliminate them and got lucky with this one for, as Bill Clinton once said, "Even a blind pig finds an acorn some times." Herr Buttars is a Republican from the Salt Lake City suburbs who is quoted in the Times as saying "I think school districts should have the authority to do whatever they need to do protect their schools -- the law gives them authority to make decisions to protect the physical, emotional, psychological or moral well being of students."
Stop lying, Senator Buttars. You could care less about that because, if you did, you'd support Gay-Straight Alliances. Studies show that student in schools with GSA's feel safer, are more likely to feel like they belong at school, and generally do better in school. In other words, GSA's "protect the physical, emotional, psychological or moral well being of students." Senator Buttars has proven that he is more than willing to sacrifice "the physical, emotional, psychological or moral well being of students" to serve his extremist, bigoted political agenda. The real shame is that Buttars' fellow legislators and Utah's Governor let this bully get away with imposing his hateful agenda on Utah's schools. As Martin Luther King once said "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people"
Herr Buttars is also quoted as saying ""Like it or not, this is a Christian country." Actions speak louder than words, Senator. My version of Christianity involves compassion and consideration for the less fortunate. By pushing this bill, you proved yours doesn't. Your vision for this country isn't Christian - it's hateful.
To my dismay at times when I was a high school teacher, I found that young people had a way of defying their elders, especially when they saw that their elders were full of it. I am betting that young people in Utah will do that here. For any student looking for information on how to start a Gay-Straight Alliance, click here. And give us a call (212-727-0135) if you run into any trouble: we'll get back to you right away. I'll promise you that.