The Colorado House approved changes Feb. 19 to the state’s comprehensive sex-education curriculum for public schools.
House Bill 1032 withstood six hours of opposition by Republican legislators before it gained preliminary approval Feb. 16.
The bill passed on a 39-23 vote, with one Democrat, Rep. Don Valdez of La Jara, voting “no” with the Republicans.
Rep. Perry Buck, R-Greeley, challenged the bill’s provisions for teaching youths about consent to having sex. She argued that the definition of consent varies by county.
Other opponents said sex-ed curriculum should be the purview of local school districts and their school boards.
Last week’s debate boiled down to how the curriculum teaches students about LGBT inclusion.
Rep. Mark Baisley, R-Roxborough Park, said “the spirit of the bill is not lost on anyone.” Its intent is “to institute in our community the acceptance of those who struggle with acceptance, who are rejected from early on,” he said, referring to LGBT people.
“Don’t step in between parents and their children,” he pleaded.
HB 1032 would not require a school district to teach sex education. But those that do could no longer offer “abstinence-only” curriculum, although abstinence could be taught as part of a comprehensive curriculum.
The bill also would increase the topics covered to include consent, birth control and pregnancy, prevention of sexually transmitted disease, “healthy relationships” and sexual orientation.
Under the measure, curriculum could 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 bill also would prevent public charter schools from waiving the 2013 state law on comprehensive sex education.
Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, one of the bill’s prime sponsors, reminded her colleagues that parents have every opportunity to opt their kids out of sex ed with written notice.
As for being inclusive of LGBT children, Lontine said her youth pastor “was outed in the worst way” by the church’s pastor, who castigated and maligned “this good man and kicked him out of the church.”
Lontine said she went home crying that day because she knew she would never see him again.
She spoke out against maligning “people who are different. If we are not teaching our kids to be inclusive of people who are different than they are, we are perpetuating that. It’s not teaching our children to be gay. It’s just teaching them that not everyone is the same, and that’s OK.”
“We cannot ostracize people for their religious beliefs, nor should we for their sexual orientation or gender expression,” added Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver.
“This is not a conversation about religion versus LGBT people,” said Herod, who is a lesbian. “There are Christians who are LGBT people. ... We cannot continue to use religion to divide us. There is only one judge, and he is not in this room, sitting in these chairs. That judge is God. Do not use religion as a guise for homophobia.”
This bill will pass the House but faces a fight in the Senate, warned Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone.
Its other prime sponsors are Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, and Sens. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Nancy Todd, D-Aurora.