The House voted today by a wide margin to strike down the state’s “no promo homo” law and render a lawsuit against the decades-old provision moot.
The repeal of a portion of the state’s law on AIDS instruction that specifically prohibits the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle and safe homosexual sex was approved 55-5. Republican Reps. John Fillmore, Mark Finchem, Anthony Kern, Warren Petersen and Bret Roberts voted “no.”
The repeal was offered as an amendment to Senate Bill 1346. Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, offered the amendment to eliminate the “antiquated” law and save the taxpayer dollars that may have otherwise been spent defending it.
Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, thanked Shope and everyone who supported his amendment for “changing laws for the betterment of all students in Arizona public schools.”
When the law was adopted in 1991, no one would have imagined that six openly gay men would be serving in the Legislature today, he said. And the vote today was a bipartisan demonstration that things are different today.
“This is not a victory for one person or for one group. This is something that all of us share in together,” Hernandez said.
No one who voted “no” explained his decision on the floor.
Both Finchem and Roberts initially voted “yes” on the bill, but changed their minds.
The lawmakers, of Oro Valley and Maricopa respectively, told the Arizona Capitol Times constituents texted them during the vote to encourage them not to support the bill.
Fillmore of Apache Junction did not need to be convinced.
He said the existing law allows kindergartners to be taught about AIDS, and he took issue with that.
The law does state that students in kindergarten through 12th grade may be educated on “acquired immune deficiency syndrome and the human immunodeficiency virus.” The law also states that the curriculum should be age appropriate.
“We’re throwing the innocence of our kids away. … I just find it kind of abhorrent that we do that in our society today,” he said, adding he has no problem with AIDS instruction for older students. “It’s just the whole system. Sometimes you just kind of look at it and scratch your head and go ‘what the hell.’”
Fillmore had already planned to vote “no” on SB 1346 before Shope’s repeal was on the table.
The House also amended the bill to allow the state Board of Education to bring the state back into compliance with federal law regarding the implementation of the “menu of assessments.”
That amendment gives the board the authority to decide which grades could take alternate assessments, giving officials more flexibility to ensure the state once again complies with the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.
Without that, the state was at high risk of losing upwards of $300 million in federal funding for low-income students.
Fillmore, a supporter of the menu of assessments law adopted in 2016, told the Republican caucus Tuesday that he would not support the amendment to comply with the feds’ determination because it allowed them to kick the can down the road.
Shope said the decision to add his amendment to one that came with a $300 million-plus price tag was not strategic – SB 1346 was simply the only other education-related bill available – but had wondered ahead of the vote if members’ opposing opinions on the two ideas would affect the vote.
Ultimately, the menu of assessments portion of SB 1346 was approved without comment on the floor.
The bill now goes to the Senate.