Sunday, January 2, 2011

Change is afoot in St. George, Utah

This story from today's New York Times about St. George, Utah led me to look it up on American FactFinder and Wikipedia. Truth is, I've been through St. George twice in the last decade, each time en route to or from the Las Vegas airport. St. George is the county seat of Washington County, which is apparently boasts the fifth fastest job growth rate in the United States. The county encompasses a big chunk of Zion National Park, including its gateway town of Springdale, population 574. Much of the area qualifies as rural resort/rural gentrification thanks to its proximity to Zion. St. George's current population is about 70,000, up from just under 50,000 a decade ago.

In any event, the story is about new Gay-Straight Alliance in the city's three high schools. The short excerpt that follows focuses more on the political and legal situation in Utah than in St. George itself.

The new alliances in St. George were part of a drastic rise this fall in the number of clubs statewide, reflecting new activism by gay and lesbian students, an organizing drive by a gay rights group and the intervention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has threatened to sue districts that put up arbitrary hurdles. Last January, only 9 high schools in Utah had active Gay-Straight Alliances; by last month, the number had reached 32.

The alliances must still work around a 2007 state law that was expressly intended to stifle them by requiring parental permission to join and barring any discussions of sexuality or contraception, even to prevent diseases.

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