Utah lawmakers this week passed legislation that mandates that if sex education is taught at all, it must be abstinence-only. It also bans discussion of homosexuality and contraception in public schools.
The legislation “defines sex education in Utah as abstinence-only and bans instruction in sexual intercourse, homosexuality, contraceptive methods and sexual activity outside of marriage.”
Under the legislation parents must opt in for those sex-ed classes, and schools are permitted to opt out of teaching sex-ed all together.
The scaremongering during the Senate debate on the bill was fairly blatant, and the press notes a lack of actual debating the merits of the proposal. Basically it would seem this was a clear vote on whether or not to impose religious based morality through the school system.
Senate debate over HB363 was relatively short Tuesday afternoon before senators passed it 19-10. In the end, many senators felt schools shouldn’t teach the subject.
“To replace the parent in the school setting, among people who we have no idea what their morals are, we have no ideas what their values are, yet we turn our children over to them to instruct them in the most sensitive sexual activities in their lives, I think is wrongheaded,” said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden.
A number of lawmakers, all Democrats, rose to speak against the bill Tuesday and ask questions. But Senate bill sponsor Sen. Margaret Datyon, R-Orem, refused to answer questions about the bill, saying “I think everybody basically knows where they are on this issue. Obviously, the senators may speak, but I don’t know that it’s going to be beneficial for me to try to debate or answer questions.”
“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 Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, said, “Something is amiss when we have to send our kids to school where they want to teach morals and sexuality and then the school sends them back home so the parents can teach them how to read.”
A Democratic proposed amendment to allow discussion of homosexuality if a child initiated the discussion, indeed one that mandated private opinions be left out of the discussion, was defeated.
The legislation has received staunch criticism, with one senator calling it a “mandate against reality,” and Democratic senator Patricia Jones, author of the aforementioned amendment, quoted as saying during the debate:
“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.”
The legislation now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert who has made education a key priority during his tenure.
Tennessee is perhaps most infamous for its proposed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, though Utah’s legislation functionally outstrips the Tennessee version in actively banning discussion of contraception.