SPLC sues Anoka-Hennepin for denying lesbians' rights in Snow Days [UPDATE]

The Anoka-Hennepin School District can't seem to come to terms with the idea that Champlin Park High School students have voted for two lesbians to be among the "royalty" at its annual Snow Days Pep Fest and Coronation.

And instead of just allowing openly gay girls Desiree Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom to walk in the event's procession the way Champlin students intended, and as "royalty" did in the past, as long as they were straight -- the event will now begin with "royalty" seated on the stage. No procession.

That's a violation of the students' rights and just plain wrong, according to a letter sent to the district from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and law firm Faegre & Benson. The Minnesota Human Rights Act explicitly prohibits schools from discriminating against students based on their sex or sexual orientation.

We are writing to notify you that the school's actions violate their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Minnesota Constitution, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

Unless the district reverts to its original program, and allows the girls to take part as a couple, "we will file an action for a temporary restraining order with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota." (Download and read the letter here.)

UPDATE: SPLC, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Faegre & Benson, have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis against the district on behalf of Shelton and Lindstrom.

"We are disappointed that the school and school district will not simply grant these two students the same rights as every other student, as they are due under both state and federal law," SPLC lead attorney Sam Wolfe said in a statement. "It is an absolute shame that the school and school district have tarnished what should be a joyous celebration through these discriminatory actions." (Download and read the complaint here.)

The whole snafu adds to the controversy in Anoka-Hennepin, where GLBT advocacy groups say six suicides in the district were related to bullying. The district denied the link. District spokeswoman Mary Olson said principal Michael George was afraid the girls would be teased.

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