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Arizona House Votes To Repeal LGBTQ Curriculum Law

The Arizona House on Wednesday approved a repeal of an Arizona law that restricts how educators can talk about LGBTQ relationships in health classes.

The law is at the center of a lawsuitfiled last month against state education leaders and has been targeted as discriminatory and harmful to LGBTQ students for years.

Sometimes called “no promo homo” or “anti-gay curriculum” laws, they specifically say  schools cannot “promote a homosexual lifestyle” in health classes.

Rep. T.J. Shope, a Republican from Pinal County, offered the amendment repealing the law to existing education legislation. He said he wasn’t familiar with the law until Superintendent Kathy Hoffman called for its repeal earlier this year. 

“I thought to myself this ... seems fairly antiquated we should probably go ahead and see if we can’t get out of this,” Shope said.

He said the Arizona attorney general’s decision not to intervene would have forced the legislature to hire outside counsel to fight the lawsuit.

Several members explained their votes on the House floor.

“I believe schools should be a safe and inclusive place for all students,” said Democratic Rep. Jennifer Pawlik.

Rep. Daniel Hernandez, a Democrat from Tucson, is gay and grew up in Arizona.

“For me it’s a really important win today to be able to have this because the struggles and the challenges I went through in our public schools where I was labeled as alternative, labeled as an other, will be going away today, ” Hernandez said.

Until January, Hernandez served as a governing board member in the Sunnyside Unified School District. He said the consequences of the law reached beyond health classes.

“A lot of school districts overinterpreted the statue. … [T]o say you couldn’t even talk about the LGBTQ community because even a mere mention could be perceived as going and promoting it and because they were afraid of lawsuits and afraid of complaints they just wouldn’t even touch the  subject,” Hernandez said

The amended bill passed the House 55-5. Republican Reps. Mark Finchem, John Fillmore, Warren Petersen, Bret Roberts and Anthony Kern voted "no."

The bill will go back to the Senate for consideration and if passed, to Gov. Doug Ducey, who could sign it into law.

From the beginning of the lawsuit it was unclear who, if anyone, would fight to keep the law since one of the defendants, Hoffman, already opposed the law.

“I believe this law is indefensible and its repeal is long overdue,” said Hoffman in a statement Wednesday.  “I urge the legislature to take immediate action and remove this law from statute.”

The Center For Arizona Policy, which has defended the law in the past, including to KJZZ earlier this year, released a statement Wednesday supporting the repeal.

“Upon review of the lawsuit, which reads more like a political statement than a legal pleading, I support and agree with efforts by Arizona lawmakers to repeal the current law’s contested provisions,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy.

The Arizona Board of Education is the other defendant in the suit is scheduled to consider the lawsuit at a meeting Monday, but it may not have much to talk about depending on how fast the bill moves through the Legislature.

The Show turned to one of the people who has been calling for this kind of repeal for some time.

Glen Spencer is the executive director of Aunt Rita’s Foundation, an Arizona nonprofit focused on the elimination of HIV and AIDS.

News Education
Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.