Public schools in Colorado would be barred from teaching students about homosexuality -- except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases -- under a bill introduced in the state Legislature.
The House Education Committee is scheduled to hear House Bill 1375, introduced by Rep. Shawn Mitchell, a Broomfield Republican, on Monday afternoon.
Mitchell did not respond to messages seeking comment on the bill, which reads in its entirety: "A school district shall not provide instruction relating to sexual lifestyles that are alternative to heterosexual relationships, including but not limited to homosexual relationships, except in the context of instruction concerning the risk and prevention of sexually transmitted disease."
The bill's chief Senate sponsor, Sen. Ken Arnold, said the proposed legislation is in response to complaints from parents, some of whom will testify Monday.
Arnold, a Republican from Westminster, says parents have told him that schools are teaching about homosexuality as early as kindergarten. He says he opposes homosexual behavior because "it's not biblical." But teachers, he says, are painting homosexuality in a favorable light.
"I think that's wrong," Arnold said. "I think it's strictly backed by the gay and lesbian community, and I think they're just trying to further their cause and get their foot more in the door. And my feeling -- they're destroying the very thread that holds the nation together."
Gay rights advocates, meanwhile, are mobilizing to fight the proposal. Perhaps the most offensive part of it, they say, is that it permits homosexuality to be discussed only when teaching about sexually transmitted diseases.
"It's just a further attempt by the right to try to tie gays and lesbians to scurrilous things, like disease," said Frank Whitworth, a veteran Colorado Springs gay-rights advocate. "The only thing they want is to attach us to negative images and stereotypes."
Whitworth said it's ironic that while the Republican Party officially supports the concept of local control in government, the bill would strip control from local school districts in terms of what can be taught.
Tasha Hill, who coordinates support groups for gay teen-agers as director of the Springs-based organization Inside/Out, said the bill would "codify the discrimination" and harassment that many gay students face in school.
"The youth that I deal with already are struggling in school," Hill said. "It's a hostile climate."
Hill says she doubts that the bill, if passed, would withstand First Amendment challenges. The bill is so radical, she said, "I find it hard to even believe."
-- Terje Langeland
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