The Arizona legislature passed a bill yesterday that would require parental permission before any school discussion of LGBTQ people or HIV.
“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about what schools are teaching their children about human sexuality and gender identity,” said Sen. Nancy Barto (R), who sponsored the bill in the state senate.
The bill requires parental permission to opt students in to any discussion of LGBTQ people or HIV, taking a harsher stance on the subject than some states that allow parents to opt out. Only five other states have opt-in requirements for sex education, and Arizona’s bill will require “a double opt-in” for sex education that mentions LGBTQ people, according to the AP.
And the bill is not limited to sex education but includes any instruction that mentions “sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” which could include history classes or anti-bullying discussions.
Schools also have to make any instruction about LGBTQ people available so that parents have two weeks to review it before giving their children permission to hear it.
Critics called the bill discriminatory.
“In a way, it’s a subliminal way of trying to get anti-homosexual legislation put in, by saying you can’t speak or talk about it in schools,” said Alison Macklin of the organization SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. “We would never make that type of legislation around other historical movements.”
She said that parents already have a chance to review sex education materials in the state when they’re being approved for use.
Democratic lawmakers said that the new law is like the state’s old “No Promo Homo” law that it was forced to repeal in 2019 under threat of federal litigation. The 1991 law banned sex education that “promotes a homosexual life-style,” “portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style,” or “suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”
Rep. Jacqueline Parker (R) defended the bill, saying that “no rights are being denied to any group of people.” She compared mentioning the existence of LGBTQ people to “an R-rated movie,” which also requires parental permission in the state.
“If parents denied permission, we went to another room and got our homework done for that day,” Parker said. “It wasn’t really that big of a deal.”
Democrats also said that requiring parents opt in to instruction on HIV would put students’ health at risk.
“That really leads to more sexually transmitted diseases,” said Rep. Amish Shah (D).
Moreover they criticized the fact that the bill raises the grade-level where sex education can start from first grade to fifth grade, saying that it would make it difficult for children to report sexual abuse.
“The fifth grade is absolutely too late for a lot of these children,” said Rep. Jennifer Jermaine (D). “It is too late for them to learn good touch/bad touch because they have already been molested, they have already been abused.”