SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert on Friday vetoed a controversial measure which would have banned the state’s public schools from teaching contraception as a way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The measure, House Bill 363, would have also prohibited any instruction in regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other instruction on human sexuality outside of promoting abstinence.
Had Herbert signed the bill into law, it would have been the first of its kind in the nation.
The bill had previously cleared Utah’s Republican-controlled House and Senate, and political observers noted that Herbert was widely expected to sign it.
In a statement released on Friday, the Governor said that “as a parent and grandparent” he considered proper sex education in public schools an important addition to the moral education students receive from their parents at home.
“If HB 363 were to become law, parents would no longer have the option the overwhelming majority is currently choosing for their children. I am unwilling to conclude that the state knows better than Utah’s parents as to what is best for their children,” he said.
“In order for parents to take on more responsibility, they need more information, more involvement, and more choice — not less. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice,” Herbert added.
Gayle Ruzicka, president of Utah Eagle Forum, a conservative group that describes itself as “leading the pro-family movement,” told the Salt Lake Tribune that it was a “sad day for the children of Utah.”
“It never entered our minds that the governor, who told us he was conservative, would veto such an appropriate piece of legislation,” Ruzicka said.
“By vetoing this bill, he just sent the message that Utah’s stamp of approval [is] on teaching children how to have sex, teaching contraception and saying this is the safest way to have sex,” she said.