Students lead effort to repeal Alabama law requiring teachers say being gay is crime and unacceptable to public

Two Alabama high school students have started a petition to repeal a 1992 Alabama law that mandates teachers in sex ed classes teach that homosexuality is a criminal offense and “not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.”

While there’s no evidence Alabama schools adhere to the outdated law, the state’s first openly gay legislator, state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, wants it off the books.  She is being assisted in her effort by a conservative Republican in the Legislature who doesn’t want sex ed taught, period.

According to the Anniston Star:

Politically, Mary Sue McClurkin and Patricia Todd don’t have a lot in common. Todd, a Democratic state representative from Birmingham, is Alabama’s first openly gay state legislator. McClurkin, a Republican from Indian Springs, is a longtime member of the conservative group Eagle Forum.

Yet both women say they’d like to repeal the state’s law governing what public schools should teach students about sex. “Sex education is best taught by the parents,” said McClurkin, who heads the House Education Policy Committee. “We should take out any state requirement to teach sex education.”

The current sex-ed law, passed in 1992, lays out the content that must be taught in sex education programs. The law says they should emphasize that abstinence is “the only completely effective protection” against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and that “abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard.”

The law also requires teachers to tell students — falsely — that gay sex is illegal. Teachers must emphasize “that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense,” the law states. “I don’t know if anybody is actually teaching this, to be honest with you” Todd said. “But the fact that this is even in the law is an insult.”

Laws against consensual gay sex were struck down nationwide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in the case Lawrence v. Texas. Even before 2003, it was unusual for consenting partners to face prosecution under Alabama’s sodomy laws.

“We never prosecuted it in Birmingham, but then, we had a lot more pressing issues,” said Don Cochran, a former Jefferson County prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at the Cumberland School of Law. “Even if there still is a crime on the books, it would be unenforceable after Lawrence.”

Despite the wording of the law, there’s no evidence that teachers are actually telling kids that gay sex is a crime. “As far as I know, that law has not been observed,” said Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Joe Dyar.

Joan Frazier, superintendent of Anniston City Schools, said she didn’t think teachers were telling students homosexuality is illegal. “We teach only what is in the Alabama Course of Study,” she said. The Course of Study is a set of standards set forth by the state Education Department, and those standards include no mention of homosexuality being illegal.

The entire 1992 sex education law, however, is reprinted in an appendix to the Course of Study. Malissa Valdes, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Education, said there’s no way of knowing whether schools are observing the letter of that law.

Todd is also getting some help to repeal the law from two Birmingham students.

Here is a release from Change.org about their petition effort:

The Birmingham students, 16-year-old Indian Springs School junior Sarah Noone and 17-year-old Homewood High School junior Adam Pratt, started their Change.org petition after learning that Alabama State Representative Patricia Todd introduced a bill that would strike the controversial language from state law. The teens say that the current law forcing teachers to tell students being gay is a “criminal offense” isn’t just hurtful, it’s also factually incorrect.

“Think of the dangerous message this law sends to lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in schools,” said Sarah Noone, who launched her petition on Change.org. “Can you imagine the self-hatred you would feel inside after hearing a teacher say that being gay is a criminal act and that society will never accept you? All students deserve to feel safe and welcome in school, but this law prevents that.”

Noone, who identifies as queer, notes in her petition that in the 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, the court ruled that sodomy laws are illegal and cannot be enforced, affecting not only Alabama’s pre-existing sodomy law but also this segment of the law that dictates sexual education curriculum.

“Telling students that being gay is a crime is not only wrong, it’s unconstitutional according to our nation’s highest court,” added Noone.

“It’s tough enough being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender student in Alabama, especially when our school curriculums provide students with a blueprint for bullying,” said Adam Pratt, a straight student who helped Noone launch the petition. “More than forty percent of the state’s homeless youth are LGBT, and suicide rates, especially among LGBT teens, are horrific.”

To help spread the word about their petition, Noone and Pratt recorded a video urging youth across state to speak out and join their campaign. Both students are involved with local gay-straight alliances and have participated with the Birmingham Alliance of Gay, Straight and Lesbian Youth (BAGSLY).

“Supporting Rep. Patricia Todd’s bill isn’t about accepting gay people, it’s about making our schools a place where all students can feel safe. I know that if enough people sign our petition, the legislature will hear what Alabama youth have to say,” said Noone.

“More than 15,000 petitions were started on Change.org this past month, but this student-led campaign was definitely one of the fastest-growing,” said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, senior campaign manager at Change.org. “In just a matter of days, Sarah and Adam have inspired more than 78,000 people, including young people across the state of Alabama and around the country, to take action. I wonder how long it will take for the Alabama legislature to respond?”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

81 comments Add your comment

Georgia

March 21st, 2013
12:09 pm

The Tea Party’s not going to like this, Yogi.

Centrist

March 21st, 2013
12:13 pm

Yet another liberal based blog topic.

For the children?

March 21st, 2013
12:22 pm

It’s not liberal based — it’s sanity based. What a dumb law to have on the books and as a mandate for schools. Good for those students who truly are making a difference.

Jovan Miles

March 21st, 2013
12:28 pm

Kudos to the two students for organizing to change a law that they feel is unjust. Language is powerful, especially language that finds its way into the laws of the land (aren’t we constantly arguing about what the original writers of the U.S. constitution meant?).

These students recognized the power of language and took real steps to ensure that the language used in the laws that may impact them do not infringe upon their rights or the rights of others.

It’s a good day for the good guys.

Centrist

March 21st, 2013
12:33 pm

Just for the sake of a little balance, just for once I’d like to see this blog highlight something conservatives support. It won’t be limiting teacher political influence, charter schools, testing, tuition tax credits, parent triggers, E-SPLOSTS.

I don’t always disagree with the thrust of these blog issues, but getting schooled on only liberal solutions is too biased. Maybe Jamie Dupree and/or Kyle Wingfield should weigh in on educational issues once in a while to see another AJC viewpoint.

Dr. Proud Black Man

March 21st, 2013
12:36 pm

Only in the South…

jarvis

March 21st, 2013
12:45 pm

Strange and Funny . . . Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on pinterest_shareShare on emailMore Sharing Services53 Crazy Laws
**Many of these laws were established during the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, when the United States was rapidly changing from an agricultural to industrial nation. Some of the laws went out of date or were repealed. Many are still on the books but not enforced.
1.Before 1920, it was illegal for women in the United States to vote. When women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony tried to vote in the 1872 election, she was arrested and fined $100.c
2.It’s illegal to ride an ugly horse in Wilbur, Washington.c
It is illegal for chickens to cross the road in Quitman, Georgia 3.In Quitman, Georgia, chickens may not cross the road.c
4.In Mohave County, Arizona, if anyone is caught stealing soap, he must wash himself with it until the soap is gone.c
5.First cousins may marry in Utah, but only after they’re 65 years old.a
6.In North Dakota, no one can be arrested on the Fourth of July, a holiday that is commonly known there as “Five Finger Discount Day.”a

7.In Tennessee, it is illegal for children to play games on Sunday without a license.b
8.It is illegal in Tennessee for an atheist to hold office.b
9.In Indiana, it is illegal for a man to be sexually aroused in public.a
10.It is illegal in California to lick toads. Apparently, some people were licking toads to get high. Unfortunately, some people were being harmed by the toads’ poison.d
11.It is against Michigan state law to tie a crocodile to a fire hydrant.a
12.An old Colorado law states that a person mush have a doctor’s prescription before taking a bath.c

13.Colorado law states that a man cannot marry his wife’s grandmother.b
14.In Kansas, when two trains meet at a crossing, “both shall come to full stop and neither shall start up again until the other has gone.”c
15.A woman in a housecoat is forbidden to drive a car in California.b
16.According to Minneapolis law, a person who double parks a car will be put on a chain gang with only bread and water to eat.b
In Michigan, husbands legally own their wives’ hair 17.In Michigan, a woman’s hair belongs to her husband.b
18.In Morrisville, Pennsylvania, it is illegal for a woman to wear cosmetics without a permit.b
19.A man is forbidden to kiss a woman while she’s asleep in Logan County, Colorado.d
20.In Challis, Idaho, it is illegal to walk down the street with another man’s wife.b
21.Flirting in Little Rock, Arkansas, can land someone in jail for 30 days.c
22.In Truro, Mississippi, a man must prove himself worthy before getting married by hunting and killing either six blackbirds or three crows.b
23.There are still laws in Pueblo, Colorado, stating that it is illegal to grow dandelions.b
24.A woman in Memphis, Tennessee, is not allowed to drive a car unless a man is in front of the car waving a red flag to warn people and other cars.b
25.It is illegal for children under the age of 12 to talk on the telephone unless accompanied by a parent in Blue Earth, Minnesota.b
26.In Kalispell, Montana, children must have a doctor’s note if they want to buy a lollipop.b
27.A representative from Oklahoma, Linda Larsen attempted to lower the divorce rate by proposing a law that would require the following before a marriage license would be issued: neither party should snore, at least one meal a week should be prepared by the non-primary cook, toothpaste should be squeezed from the bottom of the tube, pantyhose shouldn’t be left hanging in the shower, and the toilet seat should always be down when not being used.b
Men with mustaches are forbidden to kiss women in Eureka, Nevada 28.In Eureka, Nevada, it is illegal for men who have mustaches to kiss women.b
29.It is illegal in Waco, Texas, to throw a banana peel onto the street because a horse could slip.d
30.In Texas, the Encyclopedia Britannica was banned because it contained a formula for making beer.b
31.Pickles were outlawed in Los Angeles because the smell might offend people.b
32.It’s illegal in St. Louis, Missouri, for a fireman to rescue a woman wearing a nightgown. If she wants to be rescued, she must be fully clothed.b
33.Hartford, Connecticut, banned men from kissing their wives on Sundays.d
34.Buying ice cream on Sundays was illegal in Ohio because it was thought to be frivolous and “luxurious.” Consequently, ice cream vendors would put fruit on top of the ice cream to make it more nutritious, creating the ice cream sundae.b
35.A woman wearing shorts, a halter top, or a bathing suit to a political rally in Wheatfield, Indiana, could be charged with a misdemeanor.d
36.In Lander, Wyoming, it is illegal for adults to take a bath more than once a month once the cold weather arrives. Children cannot take a bath at all during the winter.b
37.According to Florida law, anyone who takes a bath must wear clothes.b
38.Motorists in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, cannot park a car for more than two hours unless it is hitched to a horse.b
39.Women in Whitesville, Delaware, could be charged with disorderly conduct if they propose marriage to a man.b
40.In Kentucky, it is against the law to remarry the same man four times.a

41.There is a law in South Carolina that allows a husband to beat his wife on the courthouse steps on a Sunday.b
42.In Arizona, oral sex is considered sodomy.b
43.In Arizona, a man may legally beat his wife once a month, but no more.b
A girl may not ask a boy for a date over the phone in Dyersburg, Tennessee 44.In Dyersburg, Tennessee, it is against the law for a girl to telephone a boy to ask for a date.b
45.In Kentucky, a woman is forbidden to wear a bathing suit on a highway unless she is armed with a club or is escorted by at least two officers. The amendment says that the provisions of this statue “shall not apply to a female weighing less than 90 pounds or exceeding 200 pounds.”b
46.According to an Atlanta, Georgia, ordinance, “smelly people” are not allowed to ride public streetcars.a
47.Massachusetts passed a law in 1648 that allowed a parent to put to death a stubborn or rebellious son. The law has been repealed by the legislature.b
48.In Massachusetts, a person could be fined up to $200 for denying the existence of God.d
49.In 1659, Massachusetts outlawed Christmas. According to state law, anybody observing Christmas would be fined five shillings.b
50.In California, ostrich steaks are exempt from state sales tax.b
51.In Lexington, Kentucky, it is against the law to carry an ice cream cone in a pocket.c
52.Policemen are allowed to bite a dog if they think it will calm the dog down in Paulding, Ohio.c
53.In Zeigler, Illinois, only the first four firemen to arrive at a fire will be paid.

OriginalProf

March 21st, 2013
12:58 pm

Didn’t the original law violate the First Amendment rights of the teacher? “Congress shall make no law …abridging [to curtail, cut short] the freedom of speech.”

Midway

March 21st, 2013
12:59 pm

“Maybe Jamie Dupree and/or Kyle Wingfield should weigh in on educational issues once in a while to see another AJC viewpoint.”

Centrist, Maybe you should start your own blog or at least change your screen name to “Right Wing Fanatic”

Gay rights are now a centrist position, get with the times.

Mountain Man

March 21st, 2013
1:08 pm

“abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard.”

Sorry, I will continue blogging after I pick myself up from ROTFLMAO!

Centrist

March 21st, 2013
1:10 pm

@ Midway – I could care less about the gay rights topic (except very tired of it being shoved down my throat in every Hollywood TV series). I guess if students propose changes to those other 53 outdated laws posted above we will read it here.

I’m certainly not a “Right Wing Fanatic” (except to liberals who are so far out there that they see everyone to their right as fanatics). My pro-choice, pro- Buffet Rule, and secular humanist stances don’t fly with the right wing – and I think the Ryan budget is as ridiculous at the Murray budget.

Mountain Man

March 21st, 2013
1:10 pm

“42.In Arizona, oral sex is considered sodomy.”

I think if you check, that is true in Georgia also, and is illegal even between a husband and wife.

Mountain Man

March 21st, 2013
1:12 pm

What was that line from “Magic Mike”

“But it looks like we have a lot of LAWBREAKERS here.”

catlady

March 21st, 2013
1:32 pm

True story: In Alabama back in the 60s and 70s, if you were gay you were required to register your home address. No one did, so the lgovernment declared that there were no gay folks in Alabama!

Devil's Advocate

March 21st, 2013
1:37 pm

32 is pretty awesome. I can just imagine a blazing fire in the middle of the night and a woman taking an hour to “get ready” to be saved.

Mountain Man

March 21st, 2013
1:38 pm

“53.In Zeigler, Illinois, only the first four firemen to arrive at a fire will be paid.”

As a result the fire department response time is INCREDIBLE!

lovelyliz

March 21st, 2013
1:51 pm

Alabama finally got rid of the Anti-miscegenation law that banned inter-racial marriage in 2000. Give them time.

AJC isn't me

March 21st, 2013
2:04 pm

Behind the two politically correct students is an adult with an agenda—without a doubt. Nor to be doubted is that the homosexual lifestyle remains unacceptable to the general public in Alabama (as well as in Georgia).

In fact, in no society on earth is homosexuality completely accepted.

The vast majority of world societies furthermore see folly in permitting homosexual couples to adopt children. That such children are deprived of mothers (in the case of male homosexuals) or fathers (in the opposite case) is just ONE of the disadvantages faced by such children.

The Last Democrat in Georgia

March 21st, 2013
2:11 pm

An openly gay legislator from Alabama and an ultraconservative legislator who does not want sex-ed taught in schools teaming up to overturn a state law requiring sex-ed teachers to teach that homosexuality is a criminal offense.

Talk about politics making STRANGE bedfellows…this whole thing sounds like a really strange plot from an episode of the “The Twilight Zone” gone awfully awry as if the show’s writers were smoking dope or something.

The Twilight Zone, Alabama-style!

Devil's Advocate

March 21st, 2013
2:13 pm

AJC isn’t me,

I don’t think acceptance of the lifestyle is the issue. How liberal is it for Alabama to have a law on the books forcing teachers to make such a statement in class? I thought conservatives were about fewer laws controlling our lives? I don’t need the government to tell me what to like or what not to like in society.

Fact-based curriculum is one thing, laws forcing the teaching of political stances in class are unacceptable whether you agree or disagree with the politics involved.

(the other) Rodney

March 21st, 2013
2:14 pm

“AJC isn’t me … In fact, in no society on earth is homosexuality completely accepted.”

Neither is Christianity, bigotry, or Puritanical morality so, I guess we’re even.

Road Scholar

March 21st, 2013
2:19 pm

Centrist: What are conservatives for? Whenever one writes about something, I thought the conservative answer is “No!”.\ from the responses given by alleged cons.

If the law is on the books, and it is not enforced, TAKE IT OFF THE BOOKS! What good is it? Will they arrest people for not knowing this law….which is not enforced?

Georgia

March 21st, 2013
2:20 pm

In this blog, it is illegal for morons to post. You’ll never get me, moderators. Top of the world, ma!

Don't Tread

March 21st, 2013
2:25 pm

There’s a lot of laws on the books that are not enforced. That’s not a reason to take it off the books.

However, since the Supreme Court ruled this particular law unconstitutional, the requirement that the teachers instruct students that gay sex is “illegal” should be removed on those grounds.

Meanwhile, in other news, looks like someone in APS has been caught with his hands in the grade-inflation cookie jar. Such outstanding, ethical people running the show there (still).

Mountain Man

March 21st, 2013
2:26 pm

“That such children are deprived of mothers (in the case of male homosexuals) or fathers (in the opposite case) is just ONE of the disadvantages faced by such children.”

This in the city where a largge percentage of children grow up in a household where there is no FATHER? Where the mother may not even know WHO the fater is?

[...] of the sex ed Course of Study to be used by teachers, this piece in ThinkProgress noted, but Maureen Downey notes on her AJC blog that there is no evidence that the old law is actually being followed or [...]

Tom

March 21st, 2013
2:47 pm

lovelyliz
March 21st, 2013
1:51 pm
Alabama finally got rid of the Anti-miscegenation law that banned inter-racial marriage in 2000. Give them time.

It was actually Alabama’s constitutional amendment banning inter-racial marriage that was finally removed in 2000. (South Carolina didn’t remove theirs until 1998).

All anti-miscegenation laws and amendments were invalidated by Loving v. Virginia 388 U.S. 1 (1967).

Chamblee Dad

March 21st, 2013
2:59 pm

@mountain man ““42.In Arizona, oral sex is considered sodomy.” I think if you check, that is true in Georgia also, and is illegal even between a husband and wife.”

Between husband & wife it is often considered “out-of-the-question.” don’t tell me “speak for yourself” I’m just saying, I’ve heard too many complaints. And to today’s young hook-up culture, it’s considered a “first date.” To some Presidents, it considered “not sex.”

Devil's Advocate

March 21st, 2013
3:00 pm

Don’t Tread,

It amazes me that someone using that name would want unenforced laws on the books. If a law is not going to be enforced, why leave it on the books? Sounds like a method for teaching the populace to not respect laws in general. Oh wait, it worked already!

Truth in Moderation

March 21st, 2013
3:05 pm

WHY CAN’T THEY JUST TEACH THE TRUTH?

Sodomy is a perversion of natural heterosexual reproductive relations. It does not lead to perpetuating the species and carries with it numerous health hazards. There are differing religious views as to whether this practice is acceptable or not. It is not without controversy.

Chamblee Dad

March 21st, 2013
3:07 pm

@Georgia “The Tea Party’s not going to like this, Yogi.” There’s a much better joke there, involving tea making, but I’m not posting it, I am fearing the filter, trying for dignity & respect for Maureen & the kids whose petition I support. Still, I even typed it out, but backed away. Chickened out.

OriginalProf

March 21st, 2013
3:23 pm

@ Mountain Man, March 21st, 1:10 pm.

In 2004, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down Georgia’s law against sodomy.

ATL Born and Raised

March 21st, 2013
3:34 pm

@Truth in Moderation

Hate to break it to you, but heterosexuals love sodomy too.

Glory hole

March 21st, 2013
3:38 pm

Sodomy is still against the law, folks, with the exception of consenting adults doing the deed in private. You can look it up.

cj

March 21st, 2013
3:45 pm

If ignorance and bigotry were crimes, Alabama would be a penal colony.

Truth in Moderation

March 21st, 2013
3:47 pm

I have a question. Is “sodomy” now LEGALLY considered to be “sexual intercourse”, regarding the Statutory Rape Law?

In Alabama, it’s not intent, but age:
“Second-degree rape for someone age 16 or older to have sexual intercourse with someone between age 12 and 16, when the actor is at least two years older.

SENTENCE:
Two to 20 years in prison”

The two students should be warning about abstinence for 14 and 15 year olds.

Truth in Moderation

March 21st, 2013
3:50 pm

@ATL Born and Raised

Your statement has no bearing on mine. I just stated the facts. Work on your reading comprehension.
Also, do you “moonlight” as a pollster?

ATLien

March 21st, 2013
3:55 pm

The quicker we drop all this religious nonsense, the better off we’ll be.

Grob Hahn

March 21st, 2013
3:59 pm

Numerically the greatest threat to overpopulation is clearly all the heterosexual encounters and largely the ones in the third world. Perhaps that is where we should spend most of the resources and do our best to encourage homosexuality in developing nations as a way to curb explosive population growth.

OR, we could just admit that laws do little to curb people’s desires and only serve as a means to steal away their rights. Homosexuality has been with humanity since the very beginning if you believe, like I do, that God initiated the evolutionary process!
Grobbbbbbbbb

Steve)

March 21st, 2013
3:59 pm

The Tea Partiers don’t care about this. They are only concerned about the budget, the deficit, taxes, abortion, gay marriage, immigration, gun laws, and the SECRET KENYAN MUSLIM USURPER AND HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE!

But they’re nothing like regular Republicans.

lawzoo

March 21st, 2013
4:05 pm

Aladamnbama needs to stay in the closet. Homosexuality is illegal? OOooh Goody ! I get to go to prison and meet my cell/soulmate.

The world gets whackier every day !

joe

March 21st, 2013
4:06 pm

It’s Alabama…what do you expect? Fans of their football team have sexually assaulted other teams fans just to get their jollies on…As soon as you cross the state line, you are 50% dumber than you were before…just sayin.

Not4thegays

March 21st, 2013
4:07 pm

Just teach that it is a sin and keep it moving. Wait, it still is a sin right? hahahaha Who cares! Next topic please. I’m sick of everything being catered to GAYS.

Woodrow

March 21st, 2013
4:07 pm

Whatever gay people do is not actually defined as ’sex’. So really it shouldn’t be covered in sex education. Gay couples cannot reproduce. It is more a lifestyle than a biological process.

JoeTheIdiot

March 21st, 2013
4:25 pm

“It’s Alabama…what do you expect? Fans of their football team have sexually assaulted other teams fans just to get their jollies on…As soon as you cross the state line, you are 50% dumber than you were before…just sayin.”
———-
Sorry Joe, it was one fan (singular not plural – do you know what that means?). Now get back to making all inclusive generic inferences. It really demonstrates your superior intellect. Moron!

williebkind

March 21st, 2013
4:26 pm

” It is more a lifestyle than a biological process.”
To put it more accurately, “It is vile disgusting behavior.”

mike

March 21st, 2013
4:29 pm

What gays do sexually, is really quite odd to me. As a heterosexual male, I just don’t get it. Especially among men. It seems completely unnatural. Nature did not intend it to be that way. You folks can say what you want, and outlawing it won’t do any good, but it is weird and deviant to me.

seabeau

March 21st, 2013
4:37 pm

If this aberrant lifestyle was still outlawed perhaps 25 million+ people would still be alive!

Cazziedawg

March 21st, 2013
4:42 pm

Let’s see. Where else in the world is it a crime to be gay? Uh, Iran? And you don’t want to see what they do to you if they find out.

Ole Guy

March 21st, 2013
4:44 pm

As a teen, I sat on the lawn of the town square, in 60s Alabama, watching a “parade,” of sorts, extoling the virtues of temperance and the social sins of booze. Fast forward a dozen or so years…last time I sailed through the Heart of Dixie, “your favorite adult beverage” was all over the place (of course, nearby Ft Rucker, and the economic influence rained upon surrounding communities had, I am quite sure, a positive influence in helping local “tradition” to consider REALITY du jour.

Just as in the booze thing, various lifestyles…like it or not; believe it or not; aggree with it or not…are a fact of life.