The Park Record editorial, March 14-16, 2012
March 13, 2012
OK, we get it: It’s tough to be a sensible Republican these days. But we don’t have much patience for those Utah politicians who have been pandering to the Tea Party and the Eagle Forum for campaign contributions and votes. We still believe that most Utahns reject the intolerant and regressive rhetoric of the far right and at least a few of their elected representatives will resist the siren call to steer the ship back into the Dark Ages.
In the coming days Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert will have to take that test. He will be asked to decide whether to sign or veto House Bill 363, the Health Education Amendments Bill which severely limits what schools can teach students about sexual behavior and birth control. We are expecting him to do the right thing, whether it is politically expedient or not, by vetoing this narrow-minded, counterproductive piece of legislation.
Specifically, the bill directs school districts to limit human sexuality instruction to those that "teach and stress the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases" and "allows a local school board or charter school governing board to adopt abstinence only instructional materials."
The language is perfectly suitable for a Sunday sermon but it does not address the issues facing today’s middle and high school-age students who would benefit more from a full and open discourse about human sexuality in order to safely navigate the current culture.
To put it bluntly: Our kids know what’s up. They live in a highly charged media environment that is full of sexual content. They know abstinence isn’t their only choice and they deserve better information — about birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuality, domestic violence, etc. They should be allowed to ask, and teachers should be allowed to help them find answers. Period.
Given the volatile political climate on the right side of the aisle, and the governor’s quest to serve another term, we know that vetoing House Bill 363 could be a deal breaker for any future endorsements from the very vocal conservative wing of Utah’s Republican Party. And Gov. Herbert may have reason to worry. They dispatched Utah Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010 and now they have Sen. Orrin Hatch in their crosshairs.
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But we believe that Utah moms and dads who believe that teens make the better decisions when they have all of the information possible will stand by Herbert in November if he stands by them on this important issue.