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Why some people favor them and other oppose them

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Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are student-initiated and student-run non-curricular clubs found in many public high schools. Their main purposes are typically to educate fellow student about minority sexual orientations, to oppose discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals, to provide mutual support, and to educate students about safer sex practices. The federal Equal Access law in the U.S. requires schools to either permit all student clubs -- including GSAs -- or to authorize no clubs at all.

Because people have different fundamental beliefs about the nature of homosexuality and bisexuality, they come to very different conclusions about the advisability of having GSAs in high schools. Some view them as a threat; others as a helpful function. This essay explores these different conclusions.

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Fundamental preconceptions about homosexuality:

North American culture remains divided between two mutually exclusive belief systems concerning sexual orientation. We repeat below a chart contrasting the beliefs of religious conservatives with other social and religious groups. It shows the fundamental beliefs about homosexuality that lie at the heart of most -- perhaps all -- conflicts involving sexual orientation. Any useful debate or dialogue must address these differences first if any progress is to be made.

Most religious conservatives believe:

Religious liberals, the mental and physical health community, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, human sexuality researchers, geneticists, and others generally believe that:
"Homosexuality" is something that you do. "Homosexuality" is something that you are.
"Homosexuality" is a lifestyle. "Homosexuality" is a sexual orientation.
A person chooses whether to become homosexual or heterosexual sometime after puberty. A person's sexual orientation is determined for them, before school age. It is not chosen.
Any adult who is attracted only to members of the same gender can become heterosexual through prayer and reparative therapy. A person cannot change their sexual orientation. Reparative therapy is ineffective and harmful. Its success rate is almost zero.
A heterosexual person can be "recruited" into homosexuality. People cannot be recruited into a different orientation.
God hates homosexual behavior. The Bible is silent about consensual, loving homosexual relationships.
Homosexuality is neither natural nor normal. Homosexuality is a natural, normal sexual orientation for a minority of people.

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Different beliefs about GSAs:

We found a report on the Mission: America web site to be very helpful in the preparation of this essay:

Typical beliefs of persons opposed to GSAs

Typical beliefs of persons who favor GSAs:
GSAs will make homosexual behavior more acceptable to students. This cause more students to engage in same-sex behaviors. This will lead to more transmission of STDs and even to death. GSAs will probably lessen hatred of gays and lesbians. However, nobody chooses their sexual orientation. GSAs will teach their members of the dangers of unprotected sex and thus lead to a lessening of STD transmission.
Why fund a sexual health education program if GSAs are going to short-circuit that effort by encouraging dangerous sexual behavior. GSAs are part of a comprehensive sexual health program. One of the functions of a GSA is to educate its members about safer sexual practices.
GSAs bring gay and lesbian teens together in a social setting. This will increase dangerous sexual activity. Some friendships will form among GSA members. Some may become sexually active. However, the strong educational message of GSAs will make any sexual activity safer. "GSAs are about nondiscrimination and safety, not sex." 1
GSAs foster a "climate of tension and division" in the school. 2 Bigotry leading to gay bashing and other forms of homophobia already exist in schools. GSAs attempt to combat such attitudes with education, thus lowering tension and division. A Massachusetts study showed that schools with GSAs had a more positive climate and fewer slurs and harassment. 1
GSAs intrude on freedom of religion, by promoting the belief that homosexuality is OK. GSAs have nothing to do with religion. However, they do oppose hatred and homophobia which are often caused by religious teachings.
"What about privacy rights-like, the right of straight students not to be openly ogled in the shower after gym class?" 2 If this is a problem at a school, then a GSA is an excellent forum to solve the problem by helping develop new school policies.
The rights of straight students to disapprove of homosexuality will be infringed. GSAs concentrate their efforts on reducing the level of gay bashing, name calling, ridiculing, and similar attacks on gays and lesbians. Students who disapprove of a sexual orientation are welcome to maintain their beliefs, as long as they don't engage in activities which hurt others.
Intolerance and animosity by gays towards straights will be intensified. The goal of a GSA is to reduce intolerance and animosity towards persons of all sexual orientations.
GSAs will reduce the effectiveness of abstinence education programs GSAs generally support abstinence for those who wish to remain sexually inactive, and safer sexual practices for those who wish to become sexually active.
GSAs encourage homosexuality which places gay teens at a higher risk for depression, alcohol and other drug abuse, suicide, etc. Depression and other problems are higher in the gay community. But it is not because of their sexual orientation. It is caused by society's homophobia and discrimination. GSAs help combat the true causes.
"When teens have homosexual desire, it is a symptom, not an identity." 2 Symptoms need to be treated. GSAs promote the belief that homosexuality is an identity. Homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual orientations are part of one's identity; they are not symptoms. All three are normal and natural. GSAs promote these beliefs.
GSAs are a training ground leading to homosexual activism and political action after graduation. The same thing can be said of Bible study clubs. The Equal Access law guarantees that students can organize both GSAs and Bible clubs.

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  1. Carolyn Laub, "View gay-straight alliance clubs as partners," Safe Schools Coalition, at: http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/ You need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
  2. "Fighting the 'gay' agenda in schools: Homosexual clubs: The rest of the story," Mission: America, 2000-Spring, at: http://www.missionamerica.com/
  3. Jim Brown and Allie Martin, "ACLU, Kentucky District Square Off on Issue of GSA Clubs in Schools," American Family Association, 2003-JAN-29, at: http://headlines.agapepress.org/

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Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > GSAs > here

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Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-APR-2
Latest update: 2003-APR-2
Author: B.A. Robinson

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