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Dems urge Ducey veto Arizona bill requiring permission of LGBTQ lessons

(Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Democrats, including the state’s schools chief, are urging Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to veto a bill that would require schools to get parents’ permission for discussions about gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV/AIDS in sex education classes.

Schools under the bill would also be forced to get parent permission for children to learn about historical events involving sexual orientation.

Arizona is one of five states already requiring parents’ permission before a child can attend sex education classes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the bill would make the state’s sex education laws some of the strictest in the nation when it comes to teaching about LGBTQ issues.

The new proposal essentially requires a double opt-in for HIV/AIDS instruction that addresses sexual orientation or gender identity and additional permission would be needed for LGBTQ discussions in any other class.

Senate Bill 1456, already passed by the Senate, passed the Republican-controlled House in a party-line vote on Wednesday and now heads to Ducey.

Democrats said the bill would harm LGBTQ children and comes after the state, facing a lawsuit, previously repealed a ban on any HIV/AIDS instruction that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle.”

“Two years ago, by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the Legislature repealed the discriminatory so-called ‘No Promo Homo’ law that for decades led to stigmatization and bullying of LGBTQ students,” House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding said in a press release. “The passage of SB1456 effectively puts those restrictions on discussion of public health issues like HIV-AIDS – or even the history and contributions of the LGBTQ community – back into place.

“The same governor who repealed that stain on our state’s history should not sign this one.”

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman in a statement said the bill marks a giant step backward for the state.

“This legislation will once again silence and erase LGTBQ individuals and their history in our schools – and it will harm students and families,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman urged Ducey to veto the bill swiftly and affirm that Arizona “is a welcoming place for all, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity or background.”

“This legislation is nothing short of state-codified bigotry and does not reflect where most Arizonans stand on these issues,” Hoffman said.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy that is backing the bill, said it is about ensuring parents have control over what their children are taught.

“The purpose of Senate Bill 1456 is to look out for parental rights, to ensure that parents have access to learning materials, that parents have the opportunity to opt their child in to classes dealing with human sexuality,” Herrod said, adding the same is true whether the class is sex education or a discussion of the ancient Greeks, where homosexuality was common.

“It doesn’t stop those topics from being addressed, but again when we talk sex education, when we talk parental notification, parents deserve the opportunity to make that decision to opt their students in to classroom discussion.”

The bill also bars schools from providing sex education before fifth grade.

“Age-appropriate comprehensive sex education helps children when they are most vulnerable to distinguish between – for example – a good touch and a bad touch and gives them the language to tell a responsible adult if they have been abused,” Bolding said. “Parents can already opt-out of this instruction if they choose, but if the legislature erects so many barriers that this instruction disappears altogether it will only allow and cause more harm.”

“If our Republican colleagues truly cared about preventing childhood sexual abuse – which they frequently profess – then they should have rejected this bill.”

Arizona is among several Republican-led states where lawmakers are considering similar changes to sex education.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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