A few days ago the Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, vetoed the abstinence-only education bill that was passed in both the state Senate and House. If signed, the bill would have restricted any public education on sex to teachings about abstinence as well as eliminate any teachings of any other sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.
The bill was widely criticized by Democrats in Utah as well as individuals and organizations from across the United States. Even the normally conservative populous of Utah was not impressed with the bill, polls showing that the majority of the states’ population wanted the governor to veto the legislation.
But, as more and more states start to jump on the bandwagon of “abstinence-only” education, the impact upon LGBT students’ needs to be addressed. Even if the Utah bill had not specified that homosexuality and gender identity should not be discussed in the classroom, there would have still been dire consequences for LGBT youth.
In the election of 2004 – an election known for its anti-gay rhetoric – the people of Utah passed their own anti-equality marriage amendment, effectively eliminating any chance for same-sex couples to enjoy any of the rights of marriage in that state. Because of this amendment, the status of marriage within society is obviously unavailable to same-sex couples. This is where the problem lies.
Abstinence-only education teaches children that one should wait until they are married in order to have sex. Proponents claim that abstinence before marriage is the best and only way to ensure that one does not get pregnant or contract STD’s. This poses a problem for LGBT youth in states – such as Utah – which have marriage amendments, because the reality of their sexual experience is left unaddressed. According to the proposed sexual education guidelines promoted by Utah legislators (and other states), because marriage is only between a man and a woman, and because LGBT people cannot get married, it stands to reason that these lawmakers believe that LGBT children should be celibate.
Such a manifestation of underhanded homophobia prevalent within abstinence legislation is not something that surprises me. Even in the transcripts of the Utah discussion over their bill, lawmakers like John Valentine expressed a deep desire that discussions on sexual orientation should not be encouraged in the classroom. But the fact that lawmakers are willing to marginalize LGBT students for political gain is what sickens me. Instead of affirming that each child’s sexuality is unique and a key component of whom he/she is, lawmakers in states like Utah are engaging in nothing short than bullying. They are not only inferring to LGBT children that their lives are not worth learning about, but they are also telling them that the only way they can be productive members of society is to live their lives alone.