Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill Restricting L.G.B.T.Q. Education

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have imposed some of the country’s most restrictive rules regarding ...


Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have imposed some of the country’s most restrictive rules regarding L.G.B.T.Q. education, calling the bill “overly broad and vague.”

The bill, which was sponsored by eight Republicans and passed the Arizona Senate on a party-line vote, would prohibit schools from teaching about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and L.G.B.T.Q. history unless a student received “signed, written consent” from a parent or guardian opting them in to the lessons.

Students would also be unable to receive lessons about H.I.V./AIDS unless they were opted in to them.

Parts of the bill “could lead to serious consequences,” Mr. Ducey, a Republican, said in a letter explaining his veto.

A provision completely banning sex education before fifth grade “could be misinterpreted by schools and result in standing in the way of important child abuse prevention education in the early grades for at-risk and vulnerable children,” he said.

Mr. Ducey’s rebuke of his fellow Republicans comes after Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, also a Republican, vetoed legislation this month that would make it illegal for transgender minors to receive gender-affirming medication or surgery. The Arkansas Legislature, however, with a large Republican majority, quickly moved to override Mr. Hutchinson’s veto.

An override is unlikely in Arizona, as Republicans in the Statehouse there — the bill passed the Senate, 16 to 14 — would need support from Democrats to do so.

In the letter, Mr. Ducey thanked the bill’s lead sponsor, State Senator Nancy Barto, who represents parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Glendale, for “bringing this discussion to the fold,” adding, “I know her heart is in a good place.”

Ms. Barto said in a post to her website that the legislation would “provide vital tools to families and protect Arizona’s children as they go through the early years of their education.” She said that sex education had become “graphic and explicit,” adding that “related topics like gender identity and sexual orientation” were being “snuck into” classrooms.

As Mr. Ducey vetoed the legislation, he also issued an executive order mandating that all sex education lessons be posted online for parents to review, a move that he said “seeks to encompass the heart of the bill.”

The executive order maintained the bill’s provision that students be opted in to sex education by their parents or guardians, a requirement that already exists in Arizona, where schools are not mandated to teach sex education.

The veto was welcomed by state Democrats, who hailed it as “the right decision.” Kathy Hoffman, the state superintendent of public instruction, thanked the governor on Twitter for “standing up to bigotry and intolerance.”

Madelaine Adelman, a professor at Arizona State University who focuses on justice studies and L.G.B.T.Q. issues, said that an inclusive education — in which “every student gets to see their own stories being told” — was important for all students, not just those who identify as L.G.B.T.Q.

“Students are learning about gender and sexuality every single day of their lives, formally and informally, inside and outside of schools,” she said. “How do you want them to learn about it, and what do you want them to learn about it?”

Tony Navarrete, a Democrat in the Arizona Senate, said that “as a member of the L.G.B.T.Q. community myself, it would have been really nice to grow up with the opportunity to ask questions of why I felt the way I felt and why I felt different.”

The bill’s attempt to connect H.I.V. and AIDS with L.G.B.T.Q. history was “hypersexualizing” discussions about the topics, he said, adding that a “more medically accurate sex education” was important.

Dr. Adelman said the legislation was so broad that it could unintentionally limit other curriculums, like English classes, where heterosexuality is “the main theme of almost all of the books.”

Simply put, she said, “it was a bad bill.”

In 2019, Mr. Ducey signed a bill repealing a 1991 law that had banned education that promotes a “homosexual lifestyle” or otherwise portrayed “homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle.”



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