March 22, 2017

Utah Repeals Anti-Gay Sex Seduction Curriculum Law”NOPromoHomo”






Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has signed a bill into law that amends Utah’s sex education curriculum so that it no longer singles out LGBTQ-identifying students for disparate treatment or for the purpose of expressing moral disapproval.

Under a provision in the old law, known as a “No Promo Homo” law, teachers and administrators were prohibited from addressing homosexuality in a positive or neutral manner, or making any statements that could be construed as “advocacy” of homosexuality in schools. Similar laws exist in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.

While Utah’s law was primarily intended to discourage information about homosexuality in the course of sex education, in practice, some teachers reported they felt “gagged” by the law from interceding on behalf of LGBTQ students who were being bullied, for fear they would be accused of “promoting” homosexuality.

Subsequently, Equality Utah, partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sued the State Board of Education, claiming the provision violated constitutional rights of free speech, the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, and Title IX protections that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. 
In response, Utah lawmakers sought to amend the provision, resolving the conflict and hopefully prompting the LGBTQ groups to drop their lawsuit. The resulting bill, SB 196, passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Utah Legislature, clarifies that all students are to be treated equally in regard to sex education instruction.

Utah, a heavily Mormon state, has a policy urging against any advocacy of extramarital or premarital sex in a classroom setting. Now, under the clarified law, all students, regardless of sexual orientation, will receive that same message, without singling out a specific group of individuals.

The lawsuit against the State Board of Education was placed on hold by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, who agreed to issue a stay of proceedings while the legislature debated and considered passing the bill, reports the Deseret News. 

However, neither Equality Utah nor the National Center for Lesbian Rights has agreed to drop the lawsuit as part of some “quid pro quo” arrangement in exchange for the bill’s passage. For instance, both organizations are concerned about other provisions in the sex education law that could be interpreted as discouraging homosexuality.

One such provision bans instruction that could “facilitate or encourage the violation of any state of federal criminal law.” Unfortunately, because Utah’s same-sex marriage ban and anti-sodomy law — both ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court — were never repealed, some teachers could interpret that as a justification to disparage same-sex relationships, beyond simply urging that students not engage in premarital or extramarital sex.

Clifford Rosky, a member of Equality Utah’s advisory board, told the Deseret News that the organization hopes to work with the State Board of Education, the Utah Attorney General’s office, and individual school districts to ensure the statute’s intent of equal treatment across the board is carried out. Then, the organization will consider dropping the lawsuit.


John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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