By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday took the first step to strike anti-gay language from the state’s sex education law that says students should be taught that homosexuality is both socially unacceptable and illegal.
Although sex education is optional in Alabama’s public schools, a 1992 law sets requirements for programs. The 1992 law says programs should encourage abstinence and put “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 this state.”
The Senate Education Policy Committee voted Wednesday to delete that phrase. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.
“It clears up some of the language in the act right now that declares homosexuality a criminal offense. It also changes some of the language to be medically accurate,” said bill sponsor Sen Tom Whatley, a Republican from Auburn.
The Alabama bill would maintain the emphasis on abstinence in sex education.
The section of the 1992 law describing homosexuality as a criminal offense is a reference to the state’s anti-sodomy law, which has since been ruled unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 ruled that such laws were an invasion of privacy and unconstitutional.
State Rep. Patricia Todd, the only openly gay member of the Alabama Legislature, has unsuccessfully pushed in the past to strike the language from Alabama law.
A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, said it is monitoring the Alabama legislation.
Alabama is not alone in putting anti-gay phrasing in sex education curriculum. According to the Human Rights Campaign, seven states have restrictions on positively portraying homosexuality in health classes. The laws are sometimes called “no-promo-homo” laws.