The Texas board of education approved new health textbooks for the state's high school and middle school students Friday after the publishers agreed to change the wording to describe marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The board decision could affect books sold in dozens of states because of Texas's market clout as the nation's second-largest buyer of textbooks.
On Wednesday, a board member charged that the proposed new books ran counter to a Texas law banning the recognition of gay civil unions because the texts used terms like "married partners" instead of "husband and wife." After hearing the debate Thursday, one publisher agreed to include a definition of marriage as a "lifelong union between a husband and a wife." Another changed phrases such as "when two people marry" and "partners" to "when a man and a woman marry" and "husbands and wives."
Board member Mary Helen Berlanga, a Democrat, asked the panel to approve the books without the changes. Her proposal was rejected on a 10-4 vote. "We're not supposed to make changes at somebody's whim," Berlanga said. "It's a political agenda, and we're not here to follow a political agenda."
Board member Terri Leo, a Republican, said she was pleased with the publishers' changes. She had led the effort to get the publishers to change the texts, objecting to what she called "asexual stealth phrases" such as "individuals who marry." "Marriage has been defined in Texas, so it should also be defined in our health textbooks that we use, as marriage between a man and a woman," Leo said.
Texas lawmakers last year passed a law that prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex civil unions. The state already had a ban on gay marriage. A controversy arose last year in Texas when the board approved new biology textbooks that contained Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, brushing aside opposition from religious groups.