SB196: Bill would remove homosexuality clause from sex education

Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Davis, speaks about Health Education Amendments SB196 during the legislature in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. Utah lawmakers took the first step Tuesday to get rid of a state law that bans the “advocacy of homosexuality” in schools, a move driven by a court challenge from gay rights groups. (Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News via AP)

A Utah bill that would remove the segment of a health education amendment prohibiting advocating homosexuality in health instruction is in committee.

Three students, represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Utah, are suing the state because of this clause on grounds of discrimination, according to a National Center for Lesbian Rights press release from October 2016.

Utah adopted the legislation prohibiting advocating homosexuality in May 2016. The legislation also prohibits discussing sex in detail and advocating contraceptives and sex outside marriage. SB196 would only remove the segment prohibiting advocating for homosexuality.

Utah parent Kelsie Hunsaker, 25, said she disagrees with SB196. She said she doesn’t have a problem with teachers talking about homosexuality, but said the discussion should be accompanied with the other prohibited discussion topics as well.

“Teach all of the truth, not just some of it,” Hunsaker said. “Partial truths are not helpful for students.”

In the press release, the National Center For Lesbian Rights said these laws are “discriminatory restrictions (which) create a negative environment for LGBT students, perpetuate discrimination and bullying and contribute to the high rates of anti-LGBT harassment in Utah schools.”

Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Davis, sponsored the bill. He calls SB196 a proactive and pre-emptive approach, protecting the current programs in public schools. He has been working with the attorney general’s office to deflect the lawsuit.

“I think it is the legislature’s job to handle such changes, not the courts’,” Adams said.

He hopes to avoid the bill going to a judge and potentially losing Utah’s “carefully crafted abstinence curriculum.”

Adams said he is sponsoring the bill because he also believes opening the discussion will allow teachers to teach to all children.

He said he believes abstinence before marriage, fidelity after marriage and the resulting harms of high-risk behavior are lessons all children need, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Jacob Dunford, development director for Provo LGBTQ family and youth resource center Encircle, is excited to see all the support behind the bill.

“This bill is giving families another opportunity to stick together,” Dunford said. “It’s a step in the right direction for community acceptance and community understanding.”

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