Utah Sex-Ed Bill: Abstinence Only, Don’t Say Gay
BY Trudy Ring
March 08 2012 3:50 PM ET
The Utah Senate Tuesday passed a bill mandating abstinence-only sex education, with no discussion of homosexuality, in public schools, sending it to Gov. Gary Herbert for consideration.
The House had approved the legislation last week. Herbert, a Republican, has not said whether he will sign or veto it.
The bill “defines sex education in Utah as abstinence-only and bans instruction in sexual intercourse, homosexuality, contraceptive methods and sexual activity outside of marriage,” Salt Lake City’s Deseret News reports. It also allows schools to opt out of teaching sex education at all. Current law allows schools to choose an abstinence-only curriculum and parents to choose whether or not their children attend sex-ed classes; Herbert has said in the past that this arrangement works well.
The legislation’s sponsor, Republican House member Bill Wright, crafted it “in response to what he viewed as inappropriate material being presented in classrooms, specifically materials produced by Planned Parenthood,” according to the News. “A lot of our districts are already teaching abstinence,” he told the paper. “This will help us set a path in the future where our curriculum doesn’t get hijacked.”
His bill had opposition from several organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the Utah Parent-Teacher Association, and Democratic legislators. One of them, Sen. Ross Romero, unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to allow for discussion of homosexuality, saying teachers should be able to counsel and support gay students, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. He also said many young people do not receive sex education at home.
“We’ve been discussing this as if every child has the benefit of two loving and caring parents who are ready to have a conversation about appropriate sexual activity, and I’m here to tell you that’s just not the case,” he said during Tuesday debate on the bill. Another Democratic senator, Patricia Jones, called the legislation “a mandate against reality.”
Some supporters of the bill said comprehensive sex education has no place in schools. “I recognize that some parents do not take the opportunity to teach in their own homes, but we as a society should not be teaching or advocating homosexuality or sex outside marriage or different forms of contraceptives for premarital sex,” said Republican senator John Valentine.
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