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Bill updating sex education curriculum fails on the last day of session

Silhouettes of People Holding Gay Pride Symbol FLag

The Alabama House of Representatives ended the 2019 Legislative Session Friday without addressing legislation to remove language from the Alabama public schools sex education curriculum that the LGBTQ+ community finds objectionable.

Sponsors said the bill would have also made the curriculum more scientifically and medically accurate.

Senate Bill 140 was sponsored by State Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn.

The bill was on one of several proposed special order calendars that the House worked from during the last week of the session passing Senate bills, while finalizing work on the budgets.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, if there was a lot of opposition to the bill in the House.

“No, not at all,” McCutcheon said. “We were going to pass it.”

McCutcheon said it was just three bills away on the special order calendar that the House was working on when the Senate abruptly left.

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APR asked State Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, if he was disappointed that the House adjourned without ever taking ups SB41.

“It was the closest we have ever come,” Rafferty said.

Rafferty is the only openly gay man to ever serve in the Alabama Legislature in its over 200-year history.

The Senate passed SB140 seven weeks earlier, but the House has had other priorities.

The Senate ended their session just before addressing legislation that would have made kindergarten attendance mandatory.  The House concluded their business and left shortly after the Senate.

The bill changes the code of Alabama, which details the content, course materials and instruction used to teach sex education to K-12 students.

The LBGTQ+ community objects to the section that says 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.”

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Sodomy was illegal in Alabama until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6 to 3 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which struck down the Texas anti-sodomy law as well as the laws in 13 other states, including Alabama. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in the five to four Obergefell v. Hodges ruling.

The bill also changed the term “sexually transmitted diseases” to “sexually transmitted infections.” It also replaces AIDs with HIV since an infected person is first diagnosed with HIV. HIV, if untreated, can develop into AIDS. The current law stresses age-appropriate classes. The bill would have expanded that requirement to include “medically accurate and culturally appropriate” materials and instruction.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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