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Indiana Law Requires OK From Parents Before Teaching Students About Gay Sex

Indiana is currently debating a law requiring students to get written permission from their parents if they receive instruction on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” in schools.

Senate Bill 65 is set to receive a hearing in the House Education Committee on Thursday after passing the upper house of the legislature in late January by a 37 to 12 vote. Co-sponsored by Republican State Sen. Dennis Kruse, the proposal mandates that parents must “opt in” to sexual education programs in K-12 schools.

“If anything needed an opt-in parental consent, it’s human sexuality study,” Kruse told the Indianapolis Star.

Conservative groups in Indiana have warned that parents and legal guardians are not legally required to be given advance notice about what their children are learning in sex ed. Thus, young people may be taught information that is contrary to their family’s political views or religious beliefs.

“Public schools are attempting to influence the child’s attitude, behavior, and actions involving sexual activity,” Advance America Founder Eric Miller told the newspaper, adding: “I believe that’s inappropriate.”

But LGBTQ advocates have warned that allowing parents to veto inclusive curricula would be harmful for queer and transgender youth.

“All students deserve access to sex education and LGBTQ students, who often do not have opportunities to learn about queer inclusive sex ed, deserve to learn about sexual health in a way that affirms and supports them, their identities, and their relationships,” says GLAAD Campus Ambassador Zipi Diamond in a statement shared exclusively with INTO.

“If parents refuse to opt-in or forget to turn in the form, these students will be prevented from receiving sex ed which can help them make informed, healthy choices and learn about consent,” Diamond continues.

Currently, Indiana does not require students to receive instruction on topics like reproductive health, human sexuality, or engaging safe sexual activity.

For schools that do teach sex ed, however, the state obliges faculty to emphasize abstinence “as the expected standard for all school age children.” and the “only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other associated health problems.”

Additional requirements include promoting “a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage” as “the best way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and other associated health problems.”

SB 65 would not amend those restrictions. In fact, critics warn it could curtail any discussion of LGBTQ identity in Indiana schools.

“Because the language of the bill is so broad, it could also be interpreted to limit the ability of educators to engage in any conversation with students about LGBTQ issues and limit instruction regarding any gender difference, gender non-conformity or LGBTQ people altogether,” says Katie Blair, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the ACLU of Indiana.

The legislation could also prevent “educators from taking action to prevent bullying and harassment,” Blair claims in a press release.

LGBTQ advocates believe that, if passed, the bill would likely contravene federal law. Blair claims SB 65 “runs a real risk” of violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex in schools. The Obama Administration announced in 2014 it would interpret the decades-old law as prohibiting gender identity bias.

To prevent a court challenge, some supporters of the effort have proposed rebranding the bill to require parents to “opt out” of a school’s sex ed curriculum if they object to what their children are learning, rather than forcing them to “opt in.”

At the time of writing, more than 25 legislators have signed onto SB 65.

But LGBTQ advocates believe any attempt to redraft or revise legislation they say is inherently “archaic and dangerous” amounts to putting lipstick on a pig. In a statement, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis claims conservatives are “prioritizing the promotion of LGBTQ erasure over the well-being of their state’s youth.”

“The Indiana House must reject this discriminatory bill that directly targets youth by blocking vital information about health and LGBTQ identity,” Ellis says.

Image via Getty


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.