Appeal dismissed in challenge to Alberta gay-straight alliance law

Vacant desks are pictured at the front of a empty classroom. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jonathan Hayward

Opponents of Alberta’s law allowing gay-straight alliances in schools have been dealt another legal setback.

Religious schools, public interest groups and parents filed a lawsuit last year seeking to have the legislation put on hold until there’s a ruling on its constitutionality.

The coalition led by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms was denied its request, but it appealed.

Two of three Alberta Court of Appeal justices have dismissed the appeal, while the third said part of it should be allowed.

Justices Frederica Schutz and Dawn Pentelechuk wrote in their decision that the public good of protecting the safety and privacy of children, as well as promoting an inclusive school environment, is extremely high.

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Dissenting Justice Bruce McDonald wrote that schools should not have their funding withheld or lose their accreditation for the next academic year when the constitutional challenge has yet to be heard.

Gay-straight alliances are clubs meant to make LGBTQ students feel welcome and to prevent bullying.

Amendments to Alberta’s School Act brought in by the outgoing NDP government prohibit schools from informing parents if their children join the groups.

Incoming United Conservative premier Jason Kenney has said his government will revert to old legislation that allows gay-straight alliances, but without blanket privacy protection for students.

Teachers who felt a student’s health or safety is at risk would have the option to tell parents their child had joined a GSA.

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