Respect Diversity + Inclusion

South Carolina sued over restrictions on LGBTQ+ sex education

lgbtq+ education south carolina statute title 59 advocacy teachers fired alan attorney general lambda law lesbian alliance
Getty Images

Story at a glance

  • LGBTQ+ advocacy groups sue the state of South Carolina over “outdated” sex education law.
  • The law prevents teachers from educating students about same-sex relationships.
  • Two other states have repealed similar laws.

A group of Charleston, S.C., high school students, in partnership with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal, filed a federal lawsuit alleging South Carolina’s public sex education curriculum discriminates against same sex relationships, according to ABC4 News

The advocates are challenging a state statute that allows public schools to ban teaching about LGBTQ+ sex education unless it is teaching about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is part of the South Carolina Code of Laws under Title 59 governing education mandates. 



According to The Post and Courier, the lawsuit alleges that the statute in Title 59 violates the 14th Amendment in the U.S. constitution by discriminating against LGBTQ+ students by preventing them from having access to vital health education. 

The statute also allows educators to be fired for teaching about same-sex relationships and sex education. The South Carolina Department of Education told ABC4 that it is unaware of any teachers having been fired for teaching about LGBTQ+ relationships. 

“This stigmatizes LGBTQ kids. It sends a message to all students that LGBTQ kids and people are associated with diseases,” Julie Wilensky, a senior staff attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told ABC4. 

Arizona and Utah repealed similar statutes after lawsuits were filed in those states. Similar laws exist in six states, including South Carolina, Wilensky told ABC4. 

Both state and education officials appear to support the repeal efforts. Defendant Molly Spearman, the school board superintendent, said that while she is required to uphold South Carolina state law, she says that “The lawsuit filed today highlights an issue that the General Assembly has failed to address.”

Similarly, when asked about the statute’s constitutionality, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office said that “a court would likely conclude this provision unconstitutional as violative of Equal Protection.”

“This office has consistently supported and will continue to support the protection of religious liberties in every context. Important free exercise of religion rights must be protected, while at the same time, ensuring that anti-gay discrimination which violates the Constitution is not present in the classroom,” Wilson’s office said in the statement.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least four black transgender women were murdered in South Carolina between 2018 and 2019.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.