Rule Promoting 'Honor And Respect For Heterosexual Marriage' In Schools Struck Down By Arizona Board Of Education

By Claire Caulfield
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - 12:09pm
Updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - 12:11pm

The state Board of Education voted Monday to scrap a rule that requires sex education classes in Arizona to "promote honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage." Board member Armando Ruiz was the one dissenting member.

But Ruiz, a former Democrat state lawmaker, told colleagues he fears that the repeal will result in a new form of discrimination, this time against people who do not believe in same-sex marriage.

“[The] Mexican community I belong to, the large number of us, we're in the faith community. We see it as an attack on what we believe,” he said. “I know that's not the intent here but that's the message that will go out."

Ruiz was outvoted as the other board members agreed to close the rule-making docket, essentially a procedural step before a formal board vote to repeal the language.

State Schools Chief Kathy Hoffman, who sits on the board, also supported the repeal.

She pointed out that the action will end a lawsuit filed in federal court in March against the state by two gay rights organizations and a Tucson student who challenged not just the rule but also a state law that prohibits instruction that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle" or "portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style" when teaching about AIDS and HIV.

The legislature repealed the statute last month. Monday's board vote to eliminate the rule should result in dismissal of the case. But Hoffman said Monday's vote is not the end of the matter.

She proposed that the board take a harder look at all of its rules on sex education, something Hoffman said will create an opportunity to address Ruiz’s comments and other concerns from members of the LGBTQ community.

Sen. Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) sent a letter to the board pointing out additional language that could be considered discriminatory against LGBTQ students.

For example, it spells out that sex education materials "shall not include the teaching of abnormal, deviate, or unusual sexual acts and practices." Quezada wants that replaced with a requirement that course be "medically and scientifically accurate.''

The board agreed to have that discussion next month.

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