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Anti-Gay Curriculum Laws

75 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2017 Last revised: 23 Sep 2017

Clifford Rosky

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: March 11, 2017


Since the Supreme Court’s invalidation of anti-gay marriage laws, scholars and advocates have been debating the LGBT movement’s near-term strategies and priorities. This article joins that dialogue by developing the framework for a national campaign to invalidate anti-gay curriculum laws — statutes that prohibit or restrict the discussion of homosexuality in public schools. These laws are vestiges of an era in which official discrimination against LGBT people was lawful and rampant. But they are far more prevalent than scholars and advocates have recognized. In the existing literature, these provisions are referred to as “no promo homo” laws and said to exist in only a handful of states. Based on a comprehensive survey of federal and state law, this article shows that anti-gay provisions exist in the curriculum laws of twenty states, and in one federal law that governs the annual distribution of $75 million for abstinence education programs. In light of the Supreme Court’s rulings in four landmark gay rights cases, these laws plainly violate the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees, because they are not rationally related to any legitimate governmental interests. For the moment, however, federal and state officials still have the legal authority to enforce these laws, because no court has enjoined them from doing so. By challenging one of the country’s last vestiges of state-sponsored homophobia, advocates can help to protect LGBT students from stigmatization and bullying, giving them an opportunity to thrive in our nation’s public schools.

Keywords: sexuality, education, constitutional, LGBT, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, abstinence, no promo homo

Suggested Citation

Rosky, Clifford, Anti-Gay Curriculum Laws (March 11, 2017). Columbia Law Review, Forthcoming; University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 205. Available at SSRN:

Clifford Rosky (Contact Author)

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
(801) 581-7352 (Phone)

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