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The Utah legislature has given final approval to a bill removing a ban on "advocacy of homosexuality" in schools, sending it to Republican governor Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.
If signed by the governor, the measure could help the state settle a lawsuit brought by Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of several students and their parents, reports Salt Lake City TV station KSTU. The groups last year sued the state and three districts in federal court over the law, saying it precludes any positive discussion regarding LGBT people.
The state Senate passed the final version of the bill today, replacing the words "advocacy of homosexuality" with "advocacy of premarital or extramarital sexual activity," which would cover either same-sex or opposite-sex activity, the Associated Press reports. The bill has received strong bipartisan support, with today's Senate vote coming in at 27-1. The House of Representatives had already OK'd it 68-1.
At least seven other states have similar laws, according to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. The groups that sued hope their action, the first lawsuit brought over such legislation, will have implications in those states.
Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams praised legislators' vote and thanked lead sponsor Stuart Adams, a Republican who is Senate majority whip. "This is a historic day for LGBTQ students in Utah," he told KSTU. "We commend Sen. Adams and the Utah legislature for recognizing that LGBTQ students should be treated with the same respect and dignity as straight students. The removal of discriminatory language from school curriculum will send a positive message that all students are valued in Utah."
This week legislators withdrew another pro-LGBT bill, however. Rep. Elizabeth Weight, a Democrat, had authored a bill to prevent parents from defending themselves against charges of child endangerment if they kicked out a minor son or daughter because of disapproval of the child's sexual orientation or gender identity, the Deseret News reports. Members of a House committee had raised concerns about the bill, saying it interfered with families or was unnecessary.
Although most of the objections came from Republicans, it was a Democrat, House Minority Leader Brian King, who said the bill should not get a vote yet. "King said he recognized it was not going to pass, and he wanted to help the bill avoid getting 'thrashed' by its opponents in order to encourage the sponsor to keep working on it," the Deseret News notes.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.