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“No Promo Homo” Laws
What are laws stigmatizing LGBTQ people in the classroom?
Laws prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” (often referred to as as “no promo homo” laws), are local or state education laws that expressly forbid teachers of health/sexuality education from discussing lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) people or topics in a positive light – if at all. Some laws even require that teachers actively portray LGB people in a negative or inaccurate way. Not only do these laws prevent LGBTQ young people from learning critical information about their health, but they also serve to further stigmatize LGBTQ students by providing K-12 students false, misleading, or incomplete information about LGBTQ people.
How are these laws applied?
While these laws generally are written to apply only to sexual health education, they are often vague can be misapplied by schools to limit other parts of the curriculum, school events and programs, and even extracurricular activities. To the extent these laws are used to limit the activities of supportive student groups, such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), they may conflict with the Equal Access Act.
What are some examples of stigmatizing state laws?
There are currently 7 states that have these types of laws: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Click here to view a map of No Promo Homo law and laws that prohibit enumeration. Here are several state examples:
- In Alabama, in terms of sexual health education, “Classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” Alabama State Code § 16-40A-2(c)(8).
- In South Carolina, health education “may not include a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.” S.C. Stat. § 59-32-30(5).
- In Arizona, AIDS education shall not “include in its course of study instruction which…(1) promotes a homosexual life-style…(2) portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style…(3) suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.” AZ Rev. Stat. § 15-716(c).
How do these laws affect students?
These laws foster an unsafe and unwelcoming school atmosphere. GLSEN’s research brief, Laws that Prohibit the “Promotion of Homosexuality”: Impacts and Implications, demonstrates that LGBTQ students in states with stigmatizing laws have less support in school from educators and other students and fewer LGBTQ-related resources (such as GSAs). Teachers in these states are less likely to teach about LGBTQ topics in a positive way and more likely to teach them in a negative way. Furthermore, LGBTQ youth in the “no promo homo” states are less able to access relevant school health services.
What is the current state of these laws?
Although several of these stigmatizing laws still exist, they have been repealed in a number of states and school districts. For example, North Carolina and several other states repealed existing “no promo homo” provisions in the process of revising their larger sexual health education laws. At the district level, the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota revised their Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy, a similar law that applied to all school curriculum, after being sued by several students who claimed the school did little to address rampant bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Efforts to pass new stigmatizing laws such as Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill have also been largely unsuccessful.
For more information:
Read the GLSEN Research Brief to learn more about the effects of “no promo homo” laws and obtain recommendations for improving school climate school climate for LGBTQ students in states with these laws and states without such laws. And if you would like to learn more about these and other types of stigmatizing laws, please contact GLSEN’s Public Policy Office at (202) 621-5819 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.