Why do high school students join gay-straight alliance groups? For many of them, it’s a safe space. It’s a club where they can be open about their LGBTQ identities without having to fear being judged by anyone. And part of that safety comes from knowing they’re only out to the people they feel comfortable around.
Last November, in Alberta, Canada, a law passed requiring, among other things, that schools keep the names of GSA members a secret. Unless the student was “under direct threat of harm,” administrators couldn’t just “out” kids against their will.
That law is now being challenged by the (conservative) Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms on behalf of 25 faith-based schools. They say the mandate to keep a student’s sexual orientation a secret violates the schools’ religious freedom. The lawsuit was initially filed in April. A judge finally heard the case yesterday.
If the Christians are successful, it would allow school officials to effectively tattle on teenagers against their will, revealing what, for many of them, is their biggest secret.
The challenge says parents are alarmed at the “climate of secrecy” the legislation has created.
“The impugned sections of the School Act have stripped parents of the ability to know fully where their children are, who they are involved with and what they may be encouraged to think or do,” it says.
Two of the parents who signed the complaint say their autistic teenage daughter joined a gay-straight alliance and was convinced to dress and act like a boy at school. The challenge says the girl became suicidal before her parents learned of “confusing influences” at school.
That’s… not something GSAs make students do. That girl was literally confused. It’s not justification for a rule change that would punish LGBTQ students.
And in case you want to know the depths of the conservative group’s bigotry, check out what its leader said:
Justice Centre president John Carpay said teachers and principals should be able to decide whether it’s appropriate to contact parents.
“There are a handful of parents who will beat their kids for coming home with a bad report card,” he said.
“Do you respond by withholding all report cards from all parents and keeping all parents in the dark about their child’s progress in math and reading and science?”
So being gay is like failing math…? And parents have a right to know both? Bullshit. There’s no good reason for administrators to reveal who students are dating, who their friends are, what they joke about, and if they’re members of a particular club. Unless they’re breaking a rule, there’s no reason to ruin their lives. Not to mention it would break the trust the student has with adults in the building.
The people suing don’t seem to understand that if parents don’t know about their child’s sexual orientation, maybe there’s a good reason for that.
If they are successful, though, we know what will happen. It’s not that schools will “out” students so much as those students simply won’t join those clubs. Or maybe those clubs won’t even exist. The Christian Right knows that. It’s what they want. They believe homosexuality should be a shameful and they’re doing everything in their power to drive it underground.
The whole case is a firm reminder that religious conservatives are just as cruel in Canada as they are here. At least in Canada, where human rights are taken seriously, there’s a good chance religious hate won’t triumph over basic human decency.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Genevieve and Lorne for the link)