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Bill would strike language calling homosexuality a “criminal offense” from sex-ed law

Chip Brownlee

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Despite changing attitudes and decades-old legal precedent, Alabama’s sex education law still requires sex ed teachers to tell students that homosexuality is a “criminal offense” and “not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.”

The law requires that course instruction that relates to sex education should include “emphasis” on that language as it relates to LGBT issues — phrasing that is outdated and inaccurate at best.

A bill traveling through the Senate would amend that language to remove the anti-LGBT section and make other parts of the code scientifically accurate.

It’s being sponsored by State Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, and it passed a Senate committee by a unanimous vote on Wednesday.

“It corrects that language and makes it where it is medically correct terminology, and it takes out things that are not factually correct,” Whatley said.

The current language in the law states that instruction should include, “An emphasis, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

Sexual activity among two people of the same sex has been legal nationwide for consenting adults and adolescents of a close age since June 2003 after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.

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Alabama’s sodomy code, which could be interpreted to criminalize same-sex activity between two consenting adults, is still on the books, but it was ruled unconstitutional by Lawrence v. Texas and hasn’t been enforceable since.

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“You had to teach it as homosexuality being a crime, and that’s inaccurate,” Whatley said. “We’re asking teachers to say something inaccurate. That’s not right. We need to clean that up.”

Other changes to sexual education in the bill include a change to teaching about HIV. Currently, Alabama educational rules use AIDS and HIV interchangeably, but Whatley is pushing for the law to better reflect the modern understanding of the two conditions.

The measure further rephrases “unwanted” pregnancies to “unintended” pregnancies.

“It makes it better for the teachers,” Whatley said.

Sex health education in Alabama is not required, and this bill wouldn’t change that.

The language in Whatley’s bill still stresses abstinence as the “only completely effective protection” for unintended pregnancy, STIs and HIV when transmitted sexually.

Whatley attempted to pass a similar bill last year, but it didn’t make it to the governor’s desk.

 

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