Turns out Alabama ain’t such a sweet home for LGBTQ folks, but they’ve got at least one powerful ally working to improve the situation.
Alabama State Representative Patricia Todd of Birmingham is the state’s first openly gay legislator. She recently introduced a bill (HB22) to eliminate anti-gay language from the sex education curriculum in the state’s public schools. What elements of the Legislature-designed curriculum strike Todd as archaic, discriminatory and harmful?
According to Alabama.com:
Today, the state requires that sex education instruction includes lessons that homosexual conduct is a socially unacceptable, criminal offense and emphasizes that abstinence is the only “completely effective” method to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted illness.
“The Department of Education needs to be making those guidelines, not the legislature,” Todd said. She introduced a similar bill, designed to transfer guideline duties to educators, last year, but the measure never made it out of committee.
Todd’s bill would remove anti-gay language from Section 16-40A-1 of the Code of Alabama 1975. She also wishes to eliminate Section 16-40A-2 of the code entirely, a “guideline” requiring that every Alabama public-school sex program include (among other gems) the assertion that “abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard.”
Representative Todd stated, “We need to make sure there is evidence-based education being done in the schools, and all the evidence shows that abstinence-only is not effective.”
Alabama state sex-ed curriculum retains the pro-abstinence language despite the fact that states with abstinence-only education also happen to have the highest percentage of underage pregnancies. On the upside, the United States has seen a steady decline in the number of teen mothers, with teen pregnancies at their lowest number in 70 years. On the downside, the United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy of “any major developed country.”
Aside from scraping the hate from her state’s education guidelines, Todd is also concerned with Section 16-40A-2 of the Alabama state code, which states: “Homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”
Deleting that last bit of language should amount to mere housekeeping, since the United States Supreme Court struck down Alabama’s sodomy law on June 26, 2003, under the Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas.
As evidenced by last year’s failed attempt, Todd faces an uphill battle in getting other legislators on board with her mission. Here’s a brief rundown of other elements of LGBTQ-related laws and practices in Alabama (learn even more over at Human Rights Campaign):
- Alabama courts are permitted to use a parent’s sexual orientation in order to make decisions on custody and visitation rights for children.
- There is no hate crime law specifically protecting victims of homophobic acts or gender identity discrimination.
- In better news, unmarried LGBTQ individuals are permitted to adopt children.
- However, Alabama state law officially prohibits the marriage of two same-sex individuals.
- A same-sex partner may not make a medical decision for an incapacitated partner unless an express advance directive (designed by a competent adult) already exists.
To contact Representative Patricia Todd and express support for her bill (or objections to it), check out her page on the Alabama House of Representatives website. She even includes her home phone number, although she did not return calls for comment in time for this story.
What attitudes should schoolchildren be taught about homosexuality? Talk them through in COMMENTS.