Gay Alabama legislator Patricia Todd joins conservative Republican to repeal anti-gay sex education law
March 19, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
Alabama’s decades-old law laying out the minimum contents that must be included in sex-education curriculum is under the microscope, as Alabama’s first gay legislator Patricia Todd joins Alabama Republican and member of Phyllis Schlafly’s conservative Eagle Forum to work on repealing it. The law has an inordinate amount of antiquated and plainly inaccurate – scientifically and legally – stipulations and references. The law states that school sex education policy should teach “[a]bstinence from sexual intercourse is the only completely effective protection against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when transmitted sexually.” The CDC says, of course, that condoms “when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.” This is not controversial, and in the fight against HIV/AIDS, it’s necessary to promote condom use along with other alternatives.
The law also suggests that teachers should emphasize “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.” In 1992, I suppose at least the first part of this could be construed as more true than it may be today. However, clearly gay and lesbian relationships are considered largely just fine to the general public. And the American Psychological Association supports ending discriminatory marriage laws that prevent gay and lesbian couples from having their relationships recognized as equal by the government and society, and has said that “homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexual orientation that poses no inherent obstacle to leading a happy, healthy, and productive life, including the capacity to form healthy and mutually satisfying intimate relationships with another person of the same sex and to raise healthy and well-adjusted children.” Anywhere from 50-54% of Americans at the national level support marriage for gay and lesbian couples. There is no gay ban in our nation’s military. Even being out as gay in Alabama itself is not as bad as it once was, as anti-bullying laws to protect gay students continue to be pushed in the state legislature and even pride events are becoming more well-attended. It’s inarguable that today, as more kids are born or adopted to gay and lesbian parents, it’s not rational to teach our kids that gay and lesbian relationships are not acceptable.
Todd says, “‘Not an acceptable lifestyle,’”[...]“What the heck does that mean? It’s like they’re trying to say we shouldn’t exist.’”
The second part of the statement in the law is even worse. Laws banning gay and lesbian couples from being intimate with each other were ruled unconstitutional in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. The law in Alabama is still on the books, which is a problem for reasons beyond criminalization, but it is unenforceable as a criminal law because of the Supreme Court decision. There is no reason this should be considered a statement that should be made to students in Alabama.
It’s an unlikely alliance, but both sides see possible positive gains in repealing the law. The Anniston Star the Republican, Mary Sue McClurkin, as suggesting that repeal of the law would allow local districts to teach – or not to teach – the law however they want, “There’s a long list of things we require from them,” McClurkin said. “And sex education is one topic that’s best taught in the home.”
From Todd’s perspective, says the Star, sex education is implemented too unevenly: “In some places it’s taught in science class, in other places it’s done in health,”[...]“In some places it’s taught by the basketball coach and in some places the kids aren’t getting anything.”
“I’m just telling them they shouldn’t be teaching things that are incorrect[.]”
Think Progress has noted that Todd had once pragmatically proposed removing the language suggesting that sexual relationships between gay and lesbian couples is illegal but it never went anywhere. She is hoping to get Republicans onboard by her proposal to repeal the entire sex education law.