Gay-Straight Iron Curtain
The 1984 federal Equal Access mandates that schools who allow any extracurricular groups to meet on campus must extend the invitation to all interested parties. The 1990 Mergens decision affirmed this principle, invoking the First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech. How ironic that a bill meant to protect religious groups would also benefit those that some of these same individuals comdemn.
My experience as an educator presented similar obstacles in the realm of gay rights. A couple of my students asked for my assistance in forming a gay-straight alliance as they researched the issue of homosexual rights as independent study students in my government class. I consented, believing that students that believed so strongly in a cause should be supported. Their efforts to recruit members in other social studies classes prompted parent phone calls in oppoisition to such a cause. This led to subtle hints from the school administration that we abandon our efforts, and as a non-tenured teacher I bowed to these pressures. It stands as perhaps my biggest regret as I look back upon my six-year career in the classroom.
I commend Yasmin Gonzalez for standing up for constitutionally protected free speech in a school environment and community hostile to her lifestyle and position. I only wish I exhibited similar courage a couple of years ago. Ultimately her cause will prevail, but the barriers will not fall without a principled fight.