This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sara Hardcastle, the president of Hillcrest High School's Gay Straight Alliance club, says people like Utah Sen. Chris Buttars scare her.
Buttars, a West Jordan Republican, is vowing to push a bill through the upcoming Legislature to outlaw gay-straight clubs in Utah high schools. "I will prevail," he says.
"We are being targeted again," says Hardcastle, a senior who has been in the Midvale high school club - known as GSA - for more than two years. "We are always having a finger pointed at us for doing something wrong - and it's just the opposite. We're doing something right."
By the way, the "we" to which Hardcastle refers is GSA's majority of straight members that includes her.
After five years of controversy and lawsuits over gay-straight clubs at East High School, the Salt Lake School Board settled further legal entanglements in 2000 by allowing students to form extracurricular clubs focused on homosexual issues.
But Buttars says the clubs, which exist in 40 Utah high schools, violate state law and promote a sexuality that most Utahns find "perverted." The schools are in effect sponsoring the clubs to avoid costly lawsuits.
State statute allows a school board to deny access to organizations that encourage criminal or delinquent conduct, promote bigotry or "involve human sexuality."
"What do you think they're talking about at their meetings?" Buttars says of the gay-straight clubs. "If you've got a chess club what are you talking about? If you're in a gay-lesbian club, you're talking about sexuality."
Stan Burnett, director of youth programs at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Utah says club members and advisers meticulously avoid discussing sexuality to avoid running afoul of the law, much as biology and health teachers carefully navigate Utah's laws on sex education.
"We're careful. We don't want to cross the line," Hardcastle says. Members talk about intolerance, teen alienation, and destructive stereotypes. "I don't think we've ever had [sexual orientation] come up in discussion."
But Buttars says: "That's another lie of the gay groups."
Utah American Civil Liberties Union director Dani Eyer would not speculate on the constitutionality of Buttars' bill because he has yet to draft it. But any law attempting to ban discussion of human sexuality might inadvertently outlaw a spectrum of school activities and clubs that deal with heterosexuality.
"Do we investigate all those other classes - family preparation courses, for instance - that deal with aspects of sexuality? How can you have a Bible study club without potentially discussing sexuality?" she asks.
This is the second time in recent months that Buttars has suggested legislating education change. In June, he proposed a bill to mandate public schools include a "divine design" theory that life was created by a deity, not simply evolution.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said the appropriateness of gay-straight clubs is best decided between parents, students and their school boards, not by state officials.
"I wouldn't want to dictate for parents," Huntsman said, adding he wasn't familiar with Buttars' proposal. "If parents do not like the idea of such clubs they should take it up with their school board."
Two Huntsman children are students at East High School, which offers a gay-straight alliance club. "I've not gone in to talk to the school board about it," Huntsman said.
Hardcastle says members of the gay-straight clubs likely will have plenty to say to their school boards and representatives if Buttars' bill gains momentum. As far as sitting down with the senator himself to explain GSA's importance to teens, straight and gay, she says, "I'd be afraid to talk to him."