Members of the gay-straight alliance from East High School and their supporters left for Boston Friday to participate in the Massachusetts fourth annual Gay & Straight Youth Pride Day.
The group was invited to the celebration by the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. It is the goal of that state's acting Gov. Paul Sellucci to create a gay-straight alliance in every high school through grants and educating the school and community about safe school environments for homosexual and bi-sexual youth."In my opinion, it is very embarrassing that a community across the country honors and recognizes our alliance and its importance to our development as adults . . . when we don't receive that same recognition in Utah," student Chris Trindell said in a prepared statement at a news conference.
In Salt Lake City three years ago, a group of East High students petitioned their principal to form a gay-straight alliance. The issue carried into the next year, splitting the community, inciting a student walkout and drawing national media attention.
The Salt Lake City Board of Education narrowly voted to ban 46 non-curricular clubs at the height of the issue.
Three civil rights groups, on behalf of two East High students, have filed a federal lawsuit against the school board and district, claiming the ban aimed to eliminate the proposed alliance. The lawsuit also says the district violated the students' free speech and equal access rights in allowing unapproved clubs to meet at school.
A gay-straight alliance is meeting at the school after hours under the State Civic Center Act.
The 16-year-old students filing the lawsuit, Ivy Fox and Keysha Barnes, are joining 11 peers and other Utah supporters at the Saturday Massachusetts celebration.
"Unfortunately, this trip makes me realize how far behind Utah is," Barnes said in a prepared statement, adding it is her wish that Gov. Mike Leavitt establish a commission for gay and lesbian youth. "Being a member of (the gay/straight alliance) motivates me to come to school because I no longer feel out of place."
Utah students Holly Peterson and Mykle Yoshikami will address the students from 125 clubs from across the country on the Massachusetts Capitol steps.
Utah students also will be featured in the film "Out of the Past," which documents the formation of the East High alliance, and will participate in panel discussions about the film and their experiences in Utah and a pride march.
The film was voted the best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.