SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Republican dominated legislature on Tuesday passed a measure that makes teaching sex education optional for the state’s schools, and prohibits any instruction about homosexuality or the use of contraception.
Under the language of the new law, HB 363, parents will be required to opt their children “in” to sexual education classes as opposed to having the option to “opt-out,” and any sex-ed classes are mandated to only teach abstinence.
State Sen. Ross Romero (D-Salt Lake City) pointed out that the bill will likely deprive many young people of sex education if they don’t have parents who provide it at home.
Romero offered an amendment that would have allowed teachers to still answer questions about homosexuality, contraceptives, or sex outside of marriage so that gay teens are not deprived of vital information about their identities, but the amendment was defeated.
“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,” said Romero.
Another Senate democratic, Pat Jones (D-Salt Lake City) called the bill “a mandate against reality.”
“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,” argued Sen. John Valentine (R-Orem).
The bill now heads to Gov. Gary Herbert (R), and if signed into law, Utah would become the first in the state to prohibit teachers from informing students about contraception as a way of protecting themselves from infections and unwanted pregnancies.
A spokesman for the State Senate’s Democratic caucus said that the effects of this legislation “will be disastrous for Utah’s young people.”
Additionally, LGBTQ advocates argue the restrictions on discussing homosexuality will lead to further anti-gay stigma.