Court Rejects Gay Morals Case
April 4, 2003
By 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Salt Lake City, Utah—The Utah
Supreme Court today rejected arguments that a lesbian high school teacher is
morally unfit to hold her job.
The case had been brought by parents who claimed Wendy
Weaver violated a state law requiring teachers to be moral models for their
students. The lawsuit alleged that Weaver couldn’t be a good role model
because her sexuality conflicted with state laws prohibiting sodomy.
The unanimous decision by the court ends a five year
battle by Weaver to keep her job. Weaver has taught Spanish and psychology in
Utah schools for 20 years.
She disclosed her sexuality when asked by curious Fork
High School students in 1997.
The school subsequently barred her from talking about her
sexuality in or out of the classroom. Weaver later won a federal civil rights
lawsuit against the Nebo School District to have the requirement lifted.
Parents and students then tried to remove Weaver from her
teaching position by complaining to the local school board, but the school
district refused to fire the award-winning teacher.
The group then sued in state court, but Judge Ray Harding
Jr. dismissed the lawsuit in 1999. They then sought a declaration from the
Supreme Court that Weaver was unfit to teach.
“They’re scared to have their kids see someone who is
gay but who functions and is happy and they like,” said Weaver, who now goes
by her unmarried name Wendy Chandler. “That doesn’t go with their
perception that gay people are evil or unhealthy.”
ACLU of Utah lawyer Stephen Clark argued to the high
court that what is at stake in this case is whether a group opposed to
homosexuality should be able to use the heavy hand of the law, with its
criminal and civil sanctions, to punish what they maintain is a moral and
The court agreed. State law “does not grant a private
right of action to students and parents of students to enforce statutory and
regulatory requirements for public school employees,” the court said. “The
students, former students, and parents of students before us on appeal lack a
legally protectible interest.”
Disciplinary action and complaints must be handled by the
Professional Practices Advisory Commission, the disciplinary arm of the state
Board of Education, the court ruled.
“Questions about the proper role of the courts often
arise at the intersection of ideological or cultural struggle and law. In this
case, the Utah Supreme Court concluded that the courts couldn’t properly
address and resolve what is essentially an ideological and cultural debate,”
But the issue may not be over. Attorney Matthew Hilton,
representing Weaver’s critics, said he would seek clarification from the
State Office of Education about the requirement that teachers be good role
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