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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has vetoed a controversial bill that would have required parental permission before teachers could even mention LGBTQ-related content, even in passing, in sex education or history classes.
However, Ducey also issued an executive order requiring public notice of any LGBTQ-related lessons before it can be used in Arizona classrooms, a concession to advocates of the curriculum bill who wish to inform parents, particularly those with religious beliefs opposing homosexuality, before their children are introduced to topics that they may find objectionable.
In vetoing Senate Bill 1456, Ducey called the bill “broad and overly vague,” saying it could lead to consequences and be misinterpreted by school administrators in such a broad manner that it might bar teachers from addressing sexual abuse prevention education to younger children.
But he did call in his executive order for more transparency regarding topics broached in sex education classes, including a requirement that schools post materials and content online for parental review 60 days before broaching potentially controversial topics in order to allow parents to “opt in” to sex education classes, according to the Arizona Republic.
While Arizona is currently one of five states that requires parents to “opt-in” before receiving instruction in sexual education, the bill, proposed by Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), was criticized for being overly stringent by requiring parental permission before subjects involving gender identity, sexual orientation, or HIV/AIDS prevention education could be addressed in the classroom.
Critics argued that the “gag rule” imposed by the law would have penalized teachers for even broaching facially-neutral historical facts about the LGBTQ community, or for allowing books with LGBTQ content on a reading list for literature classes.
Two years ago, Ducey signed a law pushed by lawmakers to end the state’s “No Promo Homo” law, which prohibited teachers from casting anything having to do with LGBTQ issues in a positive or even neutral light.
Some critics worried that Barto’s bill would effectively reverse that positive development, and open up the state to legal action, just as the “No Promo Homo” law had.
Michael Soto, of Equality Arizona, praised Ducey for allowing for more transparency without marginalizing LGBTQ students by forbidding certain content, such as discussions around sexual orientation and gender identity as part of sex ed classes.
Tory Roberg, the parent of a trans child who led protests against the bill, was happy to see Ducey veto the bill. But she believes the executive order only affirms what is already in state law.
“The school board meetings about sex education will give parents the opportunity to opt out of sex education,” Roberg wrote in an email to the Arizona Republic. “That sends a message that LGBTQ issues are controversial and can serve to alienate youth who identify that way. We have a long way to go when it comes to accepting and loving LGBTQ and trans kids as a society.”
LGBTQ advocates praised Ducey’s actions, saying the bill would have had far-reaching implications.
“History shows that restricting curriculum disproportionately impacts LGBTQ children, and Governor Ducey’s choice to veto this bill will prevent further discrimination and disinformation, and potentially save lives,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
“This bill would have threatened the ability for all students — no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity — to feel supported by their schools and families to grow into who they are without fear. This legislation also would have paved the way for efforts to withhold important LGBTQ history and literature from their education,” David noted. “We must always work to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination while giving young people all the information they need to be comfortable navigating their adolescence and live freely and openly.”
“Regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, students in Arizona deserve to have access to high-quality sex education and information about LGBTQ history, literature, and current events,” added Bridget Sharpe, HRC’s Arizona State Director. “This veto will protect LGBTQ children and ensure every student has access to enriching educational materials that tell the story of LGBTQ people in this country.”
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