Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem caught Democrats in the Senate off guard Tuesday by suspending rules to allow for House Bill 363, the abstinence-only sex education bill to be rushed for passage out of the chamber. She also refused to hear questions from colleagues on the bill before helping to get it passed out by 19 to 10 vote. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature before becoming law.
House Bill 363 sponsored by rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden would make it so that no sexual education or maturation course in a Utah school could instruct or advocate for taboo topics such as homosexuality, contraceptive methods, and sex outside of marriage. The bill would allow schools to choose to not have to offer sexual education courses if they did not want to.
The bill’s senate sponsor caught Democrats in the Senate off guard by rushing the bill through the chamber. Sen. Ben McAdams was even preparing and amendment to the bill he wanted to introducer Wednesday at the Legislature.
“Again I remind the body, that health and healthy lifestyles will be taught in schools,” Dayton said. “But once we start talking about contraception and alternative lifestyles we’re going from the biological, clinical side to sexual counseling and for that reason I am not opposed to pressing forward with this bill.”
Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay blasted the bill, calling it a “mandate against reality” arguing Utah’s sexual education is already abstinence focused, since it teaches abstinence only, but at least allows teachers to talk in general terms about contraception if students ask. She also pointed out that the current system has parents opt-in if they want their child to receive the education.
While other conservative legislators argued that such lessons should be made at home and delivered by parents and not educators, Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City argued that wasn’t a luxury every child had.
“So we have been discussing this as if every child has the benefit of two loving and caring parents ready to have discussions with them about appropriate sexual activity. I’m here to tell you that that is just not the case,” Romero said. “I think that’s a shame but I also think it’s a shame there won’t be [an educator] to provide that guidance to them.”
The bill passed by a 19 to 10 vote, almost strictly along party lines, with the exception of Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George who joined senate democrats in voting against the bill.
To find out whom your legislator is to ask them how they voted on this bill click here. To contact HB 363 sponsor Rep Wright click here and to contact the bill’s senate sponsor, Sen. Dayton, click here. For more updates from the 2012 Legislature follow @EricSPeterson on Twitter.