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Gay Alabama legislator Patricia Todd joins conservative Republican to repeal anti-gay sex education law

AIDS Right-wing

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.


  • 1. Richard Lyon  |  March 19, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Southern political schizophrenia in full flower! I suppose that this is not an appropriate place for the old proverb about politics making strange bedfellows. However, in this convoluted atmosphere, perhaps one can see why in the South ultimately good manners is what has really counted.

  • 2. Balu  |  March 19, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Hello Friends,

    In November, there are many ballot measures regd marriage equality. If my friends wish to contribute to marriage equality campaigns in Maine and Washington state, where can they do this? (apart from Courage Campaign).


  • 3. jpmassar  |  March 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm

  • 4. jpmassar  |  March 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm

  • 5. Balu  |  March 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you. I also donated here to fight NC amendment 1.

  • 6. David Henderson  |  March 19, 2012 at 11:34 am

    "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.'"

    Which is, of course, true. In the same way that you will never cause a car crash if you do not drive a car. But we still teach driver's ed.

  • 7. Glen  |  March 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Indeed. Great analogy.

  • 8. Sagesse  |  March 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm


  • 9. 415kathleenk  |  March 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    i notice the republican state rep still mouths the canard about sex education is best taught in the home
    i think its been pretty effectively shown that most parents are completely ill equiped to teach sex ed.
    The missing piece here is getting all the effective facts to youngsters- minus the moral judgements- let their parents take care of the morality part. It's just the too many people ( hello religious fundies, right wing republicans i'm talkin to you) hopelessly conflate facts and morality

  • 10. Glen  |  March 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    And often it seems to be the most fundamentalist of the fundamentalists who are the ones 'teaching' their kids sex-ed at home with hands-on training (if they aren't getting it at church).

    Makes you wonder why THEY are so often the first to object to sex-ed at schools, where kids are also taught what sort of relationships are appropriate and which are not.

    Quite frankly radical religious people are not to be trusted with ANY education, let alone dictating what secular society should be teaching our young citizens about sex and sexuality.

  • 11. Str8Grandmother  |  March 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    What I notice is this is an article from a State that has no Civil Unions,no Human Rights Laws giving any protections from any and all discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. This article is about how it is in 31 States in our country, Alabama being just one.

    This article gives much needed perspective to what it is like in the majority of out States. Maybe before Alabama can get to Civil Rights for Sexual Minorities they have to start in the basement and try to get homophobia taken out of just one issue, sex ed. This shows us what an uphill battle that sexual minorities have in 31 States. Maybe it is 29 now after Hawaii, and Illinois, I should go look that up.

    One or two more paragraph breaks would have been nice, but other than that, I find this article refreshing. There is a whole lot of country other than New York, Main, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, California and Washington. This is not to say that I am not vitally interested in them, I am. Minnesota & North Carolina also. Let's have more Minnesota stories:)

    I am always interested in first person reporting, where the journalist calls and gets direct information and quotes rather than just restating from other articles on the internet, for example. As much as Maryland and New Hampshire and Washington are important stories, and they ARE, so are Minnesota and North Carolina and yes Alabama.

    I liked this story and hope to read more like it.

  • 12. FogCityJohn  |  March 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Wow. That is an unlikely alliance. It'll be interesting to see what comes of this effort. Since it's your home state, Scottie, I know you'll keep us posted.

  • 13. Scottie Thomaston  |  March 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    I definitely will. That's what interested me so much about this, honestly. I might try to get something from Equality Alabama on this.

  • 14. Kilgore Trout  |  March 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Although this may end up being a narrow step forward for one group, repealing the entire sex ed law may end up being a major step backwards for sex education in general unless the law is quickly replaced with something better. My fear is that it will be replaced with either nothing at all or something even worse.

  • 15. Bryce from DC and KS  |  March 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    This is an off-topic question for someone like Kathleen or some other legal eagle… also, it might have been asked before.
    When it comes to Perry, can the 9th Circuit grant rehearing for the merits, BUT NOT for the motion for mistrial? Because, if so, I could see the 9th Circuit saying "ok, there unanimity with respect to Judge Walker not needing to recuse, and it is clearly wrong, so we won't rehear that, but they were divided on the merits, and so lets hear that en banc."

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