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Arizona House OKs repeal of ‘antiquated’ HIV/AIDS instruction law

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PHOENIX — The Arizona Legislature on Wednesday moved a step closer to repealing a controversial 28-year-old law prohibiting HIV and AIDS instruction that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle.”

Republican state Rep. T.J. Shope, the speaker pro tempore, amended an existing Senate bill to repeal the provisions concerning homosexuality, which he called “antiquated.”

The House voted 55-5 in favor of the bill, which needs Senate approval before going to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.

The 1991 law prohibits HIV and AIDS instruction that “portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle” or “suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”

Rep. Charlene Fernandez, the House Democratic leader, issued a statement after the vote saying she was “proud of my colleagues.”

“Today we had the opportunity to stand together in a bipartisan manner and right a wrong,” the statement said.

“We are repealing a law that has stigmatized untold numbers of Arizonans, and has led to erroneous and dangerous stereotypes, discrimination and bullying.”

A day earlier, Attorney General Mark Brnovich declined to join in defending a lawsuit against the law filed last month against the state’s Board of Education and schools chief.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Equality Arizona, argues the law constitutes unconstitutional discrimination and restricts educational opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.

The law communicates “that there is something so undesirable, shameful, or controversial about ‘homosexuality’ that any positive portrayals of LGBTQ people or same-sex relationships must be explicitly barred,” the lawsuit continued.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said in a Wednesday statement that the law is “indefensible” and that its repeal is long overdue.

“For nearly three decades the effects of these policies have harmed Arizona’s students and families,” Hoffman said.

“I urge the Legislature to take immediate action and remove this law from statute.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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