April 12, 2019

Arizona Governor Signs Repeal of HIV/AIDS Instruction Law

The state schools superintendent said the law created myth and fear around the mention of LGBTQ relationships in the classroom.

360 state capitol sen side Arizona State Capitol building.
AZPM Staff

PHOENIX — Arizona's Republican governor quickly signed a bill Thursday repealing a 1991 state law that had barred HIV and AIDS instruction that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle."

The move was intended to end a discrimination lawsuit filed by LGBTQ groups.

Gov. Doug Ducey's signature came less than an hour after the state Senate approved the repeal. One of the 10 Republicans who opposed the measure said she opposed sex education. Another noted that gay men are most at risk from the HIV virus.

The repeal received overwhelming support in the state House on Wednesday.

The Legislature acted after Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich declined to defend a suit filed last month against the state Board of Education and schools chief. The 1991 law prohibited HIV and AIDS instruction that "portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle" or "suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex."

The lawsuit says the law stigmatizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said Wednesday that repealing the law would end the lawsuit.

While the law is limited to HIV and AIDS instruction, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said it "created a myth and a fear that even mentioning LGBTQ relationships in your classroom could result in punishment or firing."

Hoffman, a Democrat, put a renewed focus on the law when she urged lawmakers to repeal it earlier this year.

Republican Rep. T.J. Shope sponsored the repeal language, which was tacked onto another education-related bill.

He called the 1991 law "antiquated" but said Republicans who hold majorities in both chambers of the Legislature were split, with some critical of Brnovich's decision not to defend against the lawsuit and others believing the law was outdated.

Gay legislators celebrated the repeal in emotional, sometimes deeply personal speeches in the House. Rep. Andres Cano, a gay Democrat from Tucson, said stigmatizing gay children leads to shame, bullying, assaults and suicides.

"Our schools should be safe, they should be inclusive, they should be free from harassment, bullying and stigmatization," Cano said.

Ducey sent a tweet Thursday praising Shope for his leadership "on this common sense solution, and for getting it done in a bipartisan manner."

Arizona was one of seven states with laws intended to prohibit promotion of homosexuality.

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