Rather than sanction a gay student group, the Salt Lake City School Board recently voted 4-3 to ban all extra-curricular activities.
More than 200 high school students marched to the state Capitol to protest the board's decision, as another 600 students walked out of school.
Principal LaMar Sorensen told the local media he asked the students not to walk out. "They're demonstrating for a belief that they have. They have a right to do that," he said. Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, came out of the Capitol, which the students were not allowed to enter, to talk to the students. "I encourage you to use the political process. Talk to your school. Talk to your representatives," he said.
East High student Kelli Peterson told the students it is wrong that legislators are "deciding our morals for us." She told the lawmakers to remember they will all be 18 soon, and able to vote.
Peterson is founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance at East High School. The club's controversy started last winter when Peterson and others petitioned the administration to form the group.
Not everyone was supportive of the group, though, as a group of students petitioned the principal to form an Anti Homosexual League, a counterweight to the gay and lesbian organization.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was addressing legislators as the students protested outside. He said he believes the U.S. Supreme Court would allow Utah school districts to ban gay and lesbian clubs as long as the districts banned purely heterosexual clubs as well.
"Personally, I believe school districts can prohibit gay and lesbian clubs and not prohibit all clubs," the senator said. "We don't need to accept alternative lifestyles and school districts don't need to accept gay and lesbian student clubs," he said, adding that he opposes anti-gay violence.