Sex education in the south has always been under a great deal of scrutiny by those who live in the north. And that’s no surprise. Unwanted teenage pregnancies are a much bigger problem for those who live in southern states, in part due to stricter abortion laws and relaxed sex education standards. One of those relaxed standards involves the concept of homosexual sexual relationships — which are banned in the classroom by South Carolina law.
Oh, with one exception: Talking about sexually transmitted diseases in the context of homosexuality is perfectly okay.
Basically, teachers can only talk about heterosexual relationships — and even talking about that is restricted by South Carolina law. Now, a federal lawsuit aims to challenge the state law.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal have combined their resources to sue South Carolina’s Comprehensive Health Education Act of 1988, which they say violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
The lawsuit said, “The law singles out LGBTQ students for negative treatment. It prevents LGBTQ students from receiving any health education about their relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases, without imposing any comparable restriction on health education about heterosexual people.”
The 1988 law goes even further by specifically stating that teachers can be fired simply for discussing homosexual relationships or “alternative lifestyles.”
Defendant Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education, actually agrees with the plaintiff. When the lawsuit first arose, she went straight to Alan Wilson, the South Carolina Attorney General. She asked him to provide a legal opinion on whether or not the old state law remained constitutional under state and federal laws. He said that courts would likely overturn the law.
Spearman said, “I agree with the arguments and evidence presented in the opinion. I also believe that parents should continue to have the final say in whether or not their child participates in health education curriculum.”
Like in many other parts of the country, parents can choose to remove their children from sex education courses.
When asked about the law, Senior Staff Attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Julie Wilensky, said, “This stigmatizes LGBTQ kids. It sends a message to all students that LGBTQ kids and people are associated with diseases.”
Wilson said, “This office has consistently supported and will continue to support the protection of religious liberties in every context. Important free exercise of religion rights must be protected, while at the same time, ensuring that anti-gay discrimination which violates the Constitution is not present in the classroom.”