The Colorado House has passed a controversial bill requiring schools that offer sex education classes to either teach gay and lesbian issues and not focus on abstinence-only programs — or to provide no instruction on sexuality at all.
The legislation, which is backed by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, would not require schools to teach sex education — but those that do could no longer offer "abstinence-only" curriculum. Instead, classes must focus on a wide range of topics, including consent, birth control and pregnancy, prevention of sexually transmitted disease, "healthy relationships" and sexual orientation.
Additionally, a school's sex-ed curriculum may not include “religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrines,” nor could it use "shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools ... or excluding the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals."
The Colorado legislation would require schools that offer sex education to teach the new curriculum — or refrain from the lessons altogether. It also would repeal a 2013 law which provided exemptions for charter schools to select different sex ed criteria.
Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, one of the bill's prime sponsors, said she wanted to ensure that all schools that offer sex education courses are following the same rules and are LGBT inclusive, according to The Daily Sentinel.
"When I began to work on this bill over two years ago, my goal was to make sure that what was happening in our schools was what the intent of the 2013 bill expressed," Lontine said. "That clearly is not happening right now. The 2013 bill was very clear that if you taught sex ed it should be comprehensive, and it should also be LGTB inclusive. That is not the education that our children are getting."
But opponents argued that the legislation abrogates the rights of parents to direct their children’s education and is a directive from the state about what defines a healthy sexual relationship.
"The spirit of 1032 is not lost on I don't think anyone, which is the desire to institute in our communities the acceptance of those who struggle with acceptance," said Rep. Mark Baisley, R-Roxborough Park. "The objections that conservatives have had, that I have had, is primarily that the acceptance is a forced acceptance. Government is force, and so to have a forced acceptance is not a genuine acceptance."
The bill was the subject of a ten-hour debate in the House Education Committee back in January, with more than 300 Colorado parents, students and faith-based representatives testifying late into the evening.
"This bill misses its intended point," said Jeff Hunt, a vice president at Colorado Christian University, according to Daily Record News. "It seeks to specifically ban traditional family values. … If you are banning a worldview from being taught, you’re not being comprehensive."
Dr. James Dobson, head of the James Dobson Family Institute, released a statement condemning the legislation as “dangerous." He criticized legislators for proceeding with the measure despite the "massive outcry" from parents.
“House Bill 1032 would mandate and expand the teaching of 'different relationship models,' such as LGBT relationships, to some of our youngest children all while prohibiting abstinence-only teaching,” Dobson said.
"If you believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, HB 1032 says too bad, your ideas are antiquated. If you believe that sex is meant to be between a husband and wife, this bill says you should just give up those old notions because young people are going to do as they please anyway. If you believe it's a parent's sole right and responsibility to teach their child about what healthy sexuality looks like, this bill robs you of that right and hands it over to the government. If you simply believe there should be more options for parents who can't afford private school, where their children can learn traditional family values about relationships and sexuality, this bill says your ideas no longer matter in America."
The bill is a “clear offense to our deeply held Christian convictions, and runs contrary to the value systems of millions of Colorado families," added Dobson.
“The JDFI calls on all citizens of Colorado of faith and traditional values to contact their state legislators and join together in this urgent fight to ensure HB 1032 does not pass the General Assembly."
In a letter, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver condemned the bill and urged parents to speak out against the legislation. The sex ed measure, he warned, is just one example of how the "surrounding culture has become increasingly challenging for Christians."
"We know that God made us male and female, in his image and likeness, but the comprehensive curriculum route which most schools will likely adopt teaches innocent children this is not true," he said.
"Specifically, public schools would have to promote abortion as an equal option to life, and parents wouldn't be notified before lessons were presented on gender-identity and sexual orientation," he added. "Each of us must do our part to fight this legislation."