Did you know that Alabama still teaches kids that being gay is an “unacceptable…criminal offense” as part of its sex-education classes? Now, State Rep. Patricia Todd, who is Alabama’s only openly gay lawmaker, is aiming to repeal this archaic and offensive mandate as part of an overhaul of the state’s sex-ed laws.
Todd’s bill would take state legislators out of deciding the sex-ed curriculum and instead allow the state’s department of education to decide on what is appropriate.
Currently, the anti-gay provision in the curriculum is tied to the state’s sexual-misconduct law, which lists so-called “homosexual acts” as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. This law was rendered unenforceable due to the 2003 Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Lawrence v. Texas which struck down Texas’ sodomy ban and in turn voided all similar sodomy bans across the country, even though a total of 18 states, like Alabama, have so far refused to scrub away the stain of their homosexuality bans.
The bill would not change the misdemeanor clause but would strip away concurrent language in the sex-education curriculum that says teachers must instruct:
“8. An emphasis, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, 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.”
Todd introduced repeal legislation in previous years but it failed to get out of committee. This time, however, she pre-filed for the 2013 session, hoping to drum up support for the bill in advance of legislative talks.
Alabama’s Department of Education has so far resolved not to take a position on the legislation, though it has noted that it acts in accordance with the law, whatever that might be.
Todd’s legislation would also strike at Alabama’s reliance on abstinence-only education, repealing clauses that say teachers must instruct that:
(1) Abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only completely effective protection against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when transmitted sexually.
(2) Abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard for unmarried school-age persons.
Said Rep. Todd in a comment to AL blogs, ”The Department of Education needs to be making those guidelines, not the Legislature. We need to make sure there is evidence-based education being done in the schools, and all the evidence shows that abstinence-only is not effective.”
Chances of the bill being taken up by the Legislature appear slim given the strong religious conservative Republican presence in both the House and the Senate, but if anyone is capable of breaking down the barriers and passing the legislation it would be Rep. Patricia Todd who, after winning her seat on November 8, 2006, found herself shunned by some lawmakers who refused to sit next to her. In 2010, however, and with the support of many of her colleagues, she was named legislator of the year.
The new legislative session begins on February 5.
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