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Lesbian Students Can Attend School Event as Couple

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 04, 2011 5:50 AM

Two Minnesota lesbian students recently won a victory for gay students. Gay and lesbian teens have been in the news lately--and not for positive reasons. A rash of suicides has prompted a national discussion about cyberbullying and the harassment these youth face in schools across the country. 

One of those schools has finally got the message.

The Anoka-Hennepin district in Minnesota has been at the center of the gay and lesbian teen suicide crisis. In the last fifteen months the district has seen five suicides precipitated by anti-gay bullying. Despite this, one of the district's high schools went forth and changed policies to prevent two lesbian students from appearing at a pep rally together, reports the Pioneer Press.

Desiree Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom were both elected to the royalty court for the school's annual Snow Days Pep Fest. When the school found out that they intended to walk into the event together, the Star Tribune reports, it abandoned its long-standing policies and required the royal court to enter on the arm of an adult. With the help of local pro bono attorneys, the girls filed a civil rights law suit.

That lawsuit was settled last week, luckily in time for the girls to send a positive message to other lesbian students at their school: it's okay to be who you are. In addition to walking into the event hand-in-hand, the Star-Tribune notes that the girls' lawsuit has started a conversation in the district about policies regarding sexual orientation discrimination.

The positive outcome in this case is not always the norm. Some states prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but there is no definitive federal equivalent. However, Title IX prevents sex discrimination, a provision that has been successfully used to fight discrimination towards homosexuals.

In fact, last month the Department of Justice intervened in a suit brought by the ACLU against a school district. The case alleges that the district discriminated against a teen based on his sexual orientation, reports LifeSiteNews, and utilizes the Title IX argument: "sex" includes "gender identity," which in turns includes sexual orientation. Keep an eye out for this lawsuit in the news--the Obama administration's interest could indicate some changes.

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