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ACLU Sues North Carolina Highway Program;
Accuses State of Discriminating Against Gay Group
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 1990
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against
the North Carolina Department of Transportation challenging its
refusal to allow a gay group to participate in a highway
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court in
Raleigh, argues that by denying a request by the Southern
Appalachian Lesbian and Gay Alliance (SALGA) to participate in
the highway beautification program, the state has discriminated
against the group because it is a gay organization.
The suit seeks to compel the state to allow SALGA to enroll in
the program and to give the group unspecified compensatory and
punitive damages for its loss of possible new members and for its
loss of standing in the community.
The beautification program, called Adopt-A-Highway, is designed
to control litter along the state's highways by authorizing and
recognizing private organizations and groups who agree to
periodically pick up litter along an assigned segment of a state
road. In return for this service, the group is allowed to post a
sign on its section of the road. Thousands of companies and
organizations now participate in the program.
When it first applied to the Department of Transportation, the
lesbian and gay alliance was told it would be allowed to
participate only if it agreed not to post a sign displaying the
name of the organization.
"Clearly the state of North Carolina thought the lesbian and
gay words would trash the reputation of its highway
beautification program," said William B. Rubenstein, the Director
of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which
filed the suit with the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union.
"This type of officially sanctioned discrimination against
lesbians and gay men is unconstitutional."
In a similar case earlier this year, the state of Missouri
denied a request by a local chapter of Parents and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays to participate in its clean highway program.
That matter was favorably resolved throughout negotiations with
the assistance of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.
"On first glance, these cases may seem like tiny examples of
homophobic attitudes," Rubenstein said. "But in reality they are
strong signs of how some government officials continue to view
lesbians and gay men. We must fight such attempts to make gay
people and gay groups invisible."