Tacoma gay-straight alliance gets legal nod

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com May 15 2003 11:00 PM ET

In concert with the American Civil Liberties Union, lawyers for the Puyallup school district in Tacoma, Wash., have advised Puyallup High School to grant a gay-straight alliance status as a full-fledged school club, reports The [Tacoma] News Tribune. The ACLU became involved last week when members of the month-old club were not allowed to pass out leaflets at the school to advertise the club. The student council will vote next Tuesday on whether to grant the alliance full-fledged club status, which would allow the club to meet at the school and publicize its meetings and activities.

Cliff Foster, lawyer for the school district, said he believes a U.S. court of appeals decision involving a Bible club last year requires the high school to grant the gay-straight alliance full club status. Aaron Caplan, a lawyer for the ACLU's Seattle office, said he felt a student council vote might have symbolic value but no legal standing. But Wanda Berndtson, principal of Puyallup High, said she supports the student council's decision to vote on the matter. "We want all of our students to organize clubs," she said. "I'm hoping the gay-straight alliance will become a club."

A gay-straight alliance at Puyallup's Emerald Ridge High School staged a controversial silent protest last year against discrimination of gays and lesbians. Many parents protested the event and allowed their children to skip school the day of the protest. In March officials at Federal Way High School, located northeast of Tacoma, upheld equal access to school resources for a gay-straight alliance after students voted against granting it full-fledged status as a club. The ACLU also intervened in the Federal Way case.