Arizona’s Republican governor on Tuesday vetoed a state bill that would have made it harder for students to learn about sexual and gender identity in schools, but issued an executive order requiring schools to be more transparent about their proposed curriculum on the topics.
Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed SB 1456 nearly a week after the state’s Republican-controlled House passed the bill by a vote of 31-28. Had the governor approved it, the legislation would’ve required students to obtain “signed, written consent” from a parent or guardian before their school provides “sex education instruction or instruction regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to the student.” Parents would have also been informed of their “right to review the instructional materials and activities.”
The bill would have also required parents and guardians to provide written permission for their student to receive instruction on HIV and AIDS, and would have mandated that a “school district or charter school shall provide a description of the course curriculum to all parents and notify all parents” before such lessons are taught.
Though Ducey said he supports “the underlying principles and intent” of the legislation, he wrote in a letter on Tuesday to the president of the state’s Senate that “the language of the bill is overly broad and vague” and might “result in standing in the way of important child abuse prevention education in the early grades for at risk and vulnerable children.”
The bill passed the state Senate and House with slim margins along party lines, so it’s unlikely that lawmakers will be able to override the veto.
The executive order that Ducey issued along with his veto mandates that the state’s Board of Education set up a more robust review and approval process for such courses and requires schools to “make any existing sex education course of study available and accessible for review both online and in person by June 30, 2021.”
While Ducey said his new rules go further than what SB 1456 would’ve done, the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Nancy Barto, slammed the governor’s decision, saying he “undermined parent’s rights.”
“An executive order is no substitute for parental rights grounded in law,” she said in a statement to CNN. “The veto undermines every single elected Republican legislator who voted to defend parents and address the frustrations they face with the current status quo that provides opt-out for some sexual materials and opt-in for others.”
Barto and other conservatives in the state had argued the legislation helps give parents and guardians more oversight in their students’ education, but LGBTQ advocates said it was discriminatory, with the Human Rights Campaign warning that it would’ve made Arizona’s rules on the issue some of the strictest in the US.
“Regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, students in Arizona deserve to have access to high-quality sex education and information about LGBTQ history, literature, and current events,” said Bridget Sharpe, HRC’s Arizona director, in a statement.
“This veto will protect LGBTQ children and ensure every student has access to enriching educational materials that tell the story of LGBTQ people in this country,” she added.
And Kathy Hoffman, the state’s elected education superintendent, also praised Ducey’s veto, thanking him in a tweet Tuesday “for standing up to bigotry and intolerance.”