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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Sues North Carolina Highway Program; Accuses State of Discriminating Against Gay Group For IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 18, 1990 The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Transportation challenging its refusal to allow a gay group to participate in a highway beautification program. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court in Raleigh, argues that by denying a request by the Southern Appalachian Lesbian and Gay Alliance (SALGA) to participate in the highway beautification program, the state has discriminated against the group because it is a gay organization. The suit seeks to compel the state to allow SALGA to enroll in the program and to give the group unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for its loss of possible new members and for its loss of standing in the community. The beautification program, called Adopt-A-Highway, is designed to control litter along the state's highways by authorizing and recognizing private organizations and groups who agree to periodically pick up litter along an assigned segment of a state road. In return for this service, the group is allowed to post a sign on its section of the road. Thousands of companies and organizations now participate in the program. When it first applied to the Department of Transportation, the lesbian and gay alliance was told it would be allowed to participate only if it agreed not to post a sign displaying the name of the organization. "Clearly the state of North Carolina thought the lesbian and gay words would trash the reputation of its highway beautification program," said William B. Rubenstein, the Director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which filed the suit with the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union. "This type of officially sanctioned discrimination against lesbians and gay men is unconstitutional." In a similar case earlier this year, the state of Missouri denied a request by a local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to participate in its clean highway program. That matter was favorably resolved throughout negotiations with the assistance of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. "On first glance, these cases may seem like tiny examples of homophobic attitudes," Rubenstein said. "But in reality they are strong signs of how some government officials continue to view lesbians and gay men. We must fight such attempts to make gay people and gay groups invisible."


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