Equal Access Act

The Equal Access Act is a United States federal law passed in 1984 to combat discrimination against student religious groups in public high schools.

If a school receives federal aid and has a "limited open forum," or at least one student-led non curriculum club that meets outside of class time, it must allow additional such clubs to be organized, and must give them equal access to meeting spaces and school publications. Exceptions can be made for groups that "materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school," and a school can technically "opt out" of the act by prohibiting all non curriculum clubs.

It was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1990 in the case Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, and the school was ordered to allow a student Christian group to meet.

More recently, the Equal Access Act has been used to fight opposition to Gay-Straight Alliances in high schools across the nation. Administration in high schools who have opposed the formation of Gay-Straight Alliances, and formally denied their organizers privileges and the right to assemble, found themselves being sued and caught in legal disputes. The State Supreme Courts have always ruled in favor of the Gay-Straight Alliance, stating that the particular school must either allow the Gay-Straight Alliance, or ban all non-curriculum groups from assembling on school property. If a Supreme Court were not to rule in favor of a Gay-Straight Alliance, they would give complete disregard to the Equal Access Act, which could result in the loss of multitudes of different after school clubs, groups, and/or organizations.