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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Challenges Alabama Statute Targeting Gay Student Groups FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, September 27, 1993 The American Civil Liberties Union today challenged an Alabama statute aimed at outlawing lesbian and gay student groups on state university campuses, charging in court papers that the law violates the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association. The suit is brought on behalf of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance at the University of South Alabama, a group that has suffered repeated denials of funding under the 1992 statute. The contested law, Section 16-1-28 of Alabama's Education Code, prohibits any college or university in the state from spending public funds or using public facilities "to, directly or indirectly, sanction, recognize, or support" any group that "fosters or promotes a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws" of the state. "Alabama has tried to legislate away the free speech and association rights of lesbian and gay college students," said Ruth E. Harlow, Associate Director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which is lead counsel on the case. "The United States Constitution, however, applies to everyone -- whether a student member of a gay alliance or the Federalist Society," she said. "We are bringing this case to restore the free exchange of ideas on Alabama university campuses." The suit was filed today, the first day of classes for the fall quarter, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery. The defendants are the Alabama Attorney General, Jimmy Evans, and two officials at the University of South Alabama. The Attorney General, in July of 1993, issued an official opinion that the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance should be denied routine student group funding as a result of the statute. "Those of us who believe in the Bill of Rights are tired of government-sanctioned bigotry against lesbian and gay students in Alabama," said Olivia Turner, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama, which is also counsel in the suit. "Gay and lesbian students are being harassed and denied equal treatment," Turner said. "The law suit will stop Alabama's embarrassing discrimination against its citizens." The ACLU's suit seeks to have the statute declared unconstitutional and to stop any further enforcement of the law. In addition to the speech and association claims, the suit contends that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and that gay students have been specially targeted under the law in violation of the equal protection clause. The law itself is written so broadly and in such a vague manner, the ACLU maintains, that it could apply to almost any campus social group. "We have complied with every university rule concerning student groups," said George Hite Wilson, President of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance. "We are a group that works to allow all students, homosexual and heterosexual, to live and work together in a productive way. Instead of helping us convey that message, the State of Alabama is instead conveying a message of bigotry and hatred." Fern Singer of Watterson and Singer in Birmingham serves as the cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Alabama in the case. The defendants have approximately one month to file their first papers in court. --endit-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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