Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Around The Nation

For One Week, Pennsylvania High School Has Gay-Straight Alliance
Chambersburg Area Senior High School
CHAMBERSBURG, PA -- In an attempt to avoid litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU), the Chambersburg School District notified the ACLU Wednesday afternoon that until the March 27 meeting of the school board, a Gay-Straight Alliance Club can gather at the Chambersburg Area Senior High School. The board's notification also indicated that the GSA Club also can enjoy every benefit of a school club until the board meets to vote on the issue.
Vic Walczak, the ACLU's Pennsylvania legal director, said that had the school district had not acted before the deadline, the ACLU would have been headed to U. S. District Court to file a lawsuit next week. Walczak told the local paper that he believes the case is nearly a certainty.
"We've never had to go to court on this issue," said Walczak. "We went back and pulled records on the issue. Since 2009, Chambersburg would be the fourth district we have had to send a letter to. All three settled before court." 
Walczak added that while a fight over a GSA has never entered the courts in Pennsylvania, he noted that nine court cases nationwide backed the ACLU's position. He cited the three Pennsylvania districts that had required a letter before school board members relented and allowed a club: Waynesboro Area School District in 2009, Brownsville Area School District in Fayette County in 2012, and Hermitage School District in Mercer County in 2009. 
According to the Public Opinion newspaper, the American Family Association's Pennsylvania Chapter says it's not that simple.
"We believe strongly the school board made the right decision at the end of last month," said Diane Gramley, AFA Pennsylvania director. "We believe the ACLU is using some tactics along with Equality Pa. to force the school board to change their mind on the issue."
She noted a seldom-used portion of the federal Equal Access Act of 1984 - the law the ACLU says the school board violated when it denied the Gay-Straight Alliance club. The Equal Access Act guarantees equal opportunity and treatment for all non-curricular, student-led clubs. 
"(The Equal Access Act) also has the portion about not approving a GSA," said Gramley. "If you look at the Equal Access Act, it was first instituted to allow good news [christian] clubs to participate in schools." 
Gramley said that the school board could abolish every single club - the school has around 30 - to remove the need for equal access adding that the school board didn't have to approve the club and could require parental signatures for all clubs at the school.
"Other states have done this - school boards have passed policies which would require parental consent for student participation in any club," Gramley said.
The ACLU's legal director questioned the veracity of Gramley's suggestion regarding requiring parental consent;
"Is there something wrong with this club that someone would need to have a note signed," said Walczak. "If they want to pick a fight they can do that."
New Jersey
NJ Governor Christie Undecided On Legislation To Ban Ex-Gay Therapy
NJ Governor Chris Christie, (R) * File Photo
STONE HARBOR, NJ -- Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie said that he's undecided on whether the state should ban the controversial use of "gay conversion therapy." Christie told reporters that he only knows little about the method.
"I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general," he said."Number one, I think there should be lots of deference given to parents on raising their children. I don't — this is a general philosophy, not to his bill — generally philosophically, on bills that restrict parents ability to make decisions on how to care for their children, I'm generally a skeptic of those bills. Now, there can always be exceptions to those rules and this bill may be one of them."
The governor said he had yet to look at the bill and as is his custom, won't review the legislation until the final version hits his desk after passage by the state's lawmakers.
Last year, the California state legislature passed a similar bill that was signed into law in September by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Following months of legal maneuvers by both supporters and opponents, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency order last month putting the California law on hold until it can hear full arguments on the issue.The law was set to take effect Jan. 1.
After a hearing in Trenton on Monday, the Senate’s health committee approved a bill that would ban licensed counselors from using “conversion therapy” on gays. Supporters called the practice damaging and demoralizing, while bill opponents accused state lawmakers of interfering with the counselor-patient relationship and intruding on parents' rights.
Reporters also asked the governor about Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's decision this past week to support same-sex marriage after his son revealed to him he is gay. While he still opposes same-sex marriage, Christie praised Portman, a fellow Republican;
"But as far as how it affects my view, no," Christie said, "because that question implies that somehow this is a political judgment and for me it's not."