There’s a section of a 1992 Alabama law that requires sexual education teachers to emphasize “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense and not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.” Two Alabama high school students have started a petition to have the law removed.
My name is Sarah and I’m a 16-year-old student from Alabama. Along with my friend Adam, we’re asking the Alabama legislature to remove a section of Alabama law that requires sexual education teachers to emphasize “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense.”
Think of the effect that this law has on lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in schools. It incorrectly tells them that being gay is a criminal act and that society will never accept them. Imagine the self-hatred you would feel inside you after hearing this in class, despite having done nothing wrong? Imagine the message its giving to bullies, too…..
I am a queer high school student living in Alabama, and the world I live in can be frightening. I’ve devoted my life to helping the LGBT youth of this state find safe places and thrive as a community. As a Youth Leader of the Birmingham Alliance of Gay, Straight and Lesbian Youth (BAGSLY), I spend considerable time with individuals who face some of the worst homophobia and transphobia that this country has to offer. Adam, who is just 17, has had to endure disgust and hatred in school, just for being himself. I have a friend whose father refused to speak to him for months after he came out, despite living in the same house.
I have friends who have been disowned by family members, sent to conversion therapy, or kicked out of their homes. And still, we are the lucky ones because we live in an urban area that has support systems like BAGSLY or school Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. A great deal of the state is completely lacking those resources.
Every single gay teen in Alabama wakes up each day knowing that so much of the world is against them. More than forty percent of the state’s homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Teen suicide rates, especially among LGBT teens, are alarming and horrific. Supporting Rep. Patricia Todd’s bill isn’t about accepting gay people, it’s about making our schools a place where all students can feel safe.
State Rep. Patricia Todd, a Democrat and Alabama’s first openly gay state legislator, thinks the law is offensive and wants sex education requirements to be decided by educators. But State Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, a Republican and social conservative who may co-sponsor the repeal effort, just doesn’t want schools teaching students about sex, period.
Politically, Mary Sue McClurkin and Patricia Todd don’t have a lot in common. Todd, a Democratic state representative from Birmingham, is Alabama’s first openly gay state legislator. McClurkin, a Republican from Indian Springs, is a longtime member of the conservative group Eagle Forum.
Yet both women say they’d like to repeal the state’s law governing what public schools should teach students about sex. “Sex education is best taught by the parents,” said McClurkin, who heads the House Education Policy Committee. “We should take out any state requirement to teach sex education.”
The current sex-ed law, passed in 1992, lays out the content that must be taught in sex education programs. The law says they should emphasize that abstinence is “the only completely effective protection” against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and that “abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard.”
The law also requires teachers to tell students — falsely — that gay sex is illegal. Teachers must emphasize “that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense,” the law states. “I don’t know if anybody is actually teaching this, to be honest with you” Todd said. “But the fact that this is even in the law is an insult.”
Laws against consensual gay sex were struck down nationwide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in the case Lawrence v. Texas. Even before 2003, it was unusual for consenting partners to face prosecution under Alabama’s sodomy laws.
The entire 1992 sex education law, however, is reprinted in an appendix to the Course of Study. Malissa Valdes, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Education, said there’s no way of knowing whether schools are observing the letter of that law.