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Sen. Whatley proposes changes to sex ed law to remove dated anti-LGBT language


By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

A state senator is proposing changes to Alabama’s sex education law that would remove dated, blatantly anti-LGBT language and make other portions of the code more scientifically accurate.

Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, is sponsoring the bill, which would remove discriminatory language from state law directing educators to teach that homosexuality is a criminal offense and an unacceptable lifestyle.

SB269, which is waiting for a hearing in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee, would update the law that provides details on how educators should teach K-12 sex education courses.

“This is just trying to make sure we have a good, correct code when it comes to sex education in public schools,” Whatley said.

Alabama’s current sex education law says that teachers should provide an emphasis that, “in a factual manner and from a public health perspective … homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

“That’s just blatantly not correct,” Whatley said. “This would get those parts out that just aren’t correct from a 1980s code. We’re making progress on getting the code cleaned up.”

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While there are still laws on the books in Alabama that prohibit same-sex relations, those laws haven’t really been enforced in more than a decade. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled sodomy bans unconstitutional in 2003 and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals did the same in 2014.

Whatley said updating the language in the sex education statue is just an effort to bring the code in line with the legalities of the present.

Alabama’s sex education policies were written in the 1980s and 1990s — during the height of the HIV/AIDs crisis — and reflect public sentiment toward sex ed at the time. They haven’t really been updated since.

“This just clears up some language in the code that now makes it more medically accurate, and there is some language in there that is blatantly wrong. It gets that out of the code,” Whatley said.

Other parts of the bill would change mentions of AIDs to HIV instead. HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is the actual virus while AIDs is a condition that can develop if HIV goes untreated.

While HIV is currently incurable, it is controllable with antiretroviral therapy, and in most cases, those who are infected with HIV today can prevent a progression to AIDs. Given that HIV is the actual sexually transmitted infection, Whatley said it should be the focus of educators, not AIDs.

The Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs must approve the bill before it can head to the Senate floor. If passed by both chambers, the governor would have to sign it. Democrats have carried similar language in the past with little success.

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Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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