The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill removing a provision in state law that currently requires sexual education courses in public schools to include a condemnation of homosexuality.
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville), updates some words in the 1975 statute governing sex ed to better reflect more medically accurate understandings of science, such as changing references to “AIDS” to “HIV,” which is the proper name of the virus that can be transmitted through sexual contact.
Hall’s bill also eliminates references to “self control and ethical conduct” when requiring that schools promote abstinence, instead speaking of the importance of “delaying sexual activity [until marriage]” and “discouraging risky sexual behavior.”
The biggest change in the bill, however, involves a condemnation of homosexuality. The current law states that teachers must emphasize that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”
Regardless of whether lawmakers believe homosexuality is an “acceptable lifestyle,” it is factually inaccurate that homosexual conduct remains illegal or a punishable offense, because Alabama’s anti-sodomy law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.
“I was just trying to make the language [in the statute] appropriate and scientifically correct,” Hall told AL.com, the website run by Alabama Media Group. “That’s why we also changed some definitions or words.”
Hall, a former high school science teacher, said sexual education is not required in Alabama public schools, but the law requires certain concepts be addressed in any sexual education course that is offered. Regarding the condemnation of sexuality, she hopes schools aren’t currently including that language in their curriculum.
“I hope not, but I couldn’t tell you that it’s not [being taught],” she said.
Hall noted that the debate over the bill did not mention the removal of the condemnation of homosexuality, nor did it change Alabama’s requirement that courses must teach that abstinence is the only completely effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
“We didn’t let it become a controversial part,” Hall said of the proposed changes to the law. “It was more emphasis on bringing it in line with terms that are being used today.”
Ultimately, the bill passed with bipartisan support, by a vote of 69-30. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. Similar measures have been proposed in past years, but have failed to pass both chambers or reach the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
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