Perdue to sign gay-inclusive bully bill

Advocates look to next steps for sex ed act

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: June 24, 2009 in News

Originally published: June 22, 2009, 9:23 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2009, 11:30 a.m.

The press office of North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue has confirmed she will sign the anti-bullying bill passed by the legislature on Tuesday, June 23.

The Fayetteville Observer reports that an aide has said she expects the governor to sign the bill. Hickory-based activist and blogger Brandon Greeson also reported via Twitter that the governor will sign it within 10 days.

The School Violence Prevention Act (SVPA) passed the House 58-57. It had previously been approved by the Senate.

The SVPA mandates that all local school districts in the state adopt strong anti-bullying policies by the end of this year. The policies are to include a list of enumerated categories outlining those students who are most at-risk and vulnerable to bullying; the list includes sexual orientation and gender-identity.

Contentious debate
Representatives spoke at length for and against the School Violence Prevention Act (SVPA) during two rounds of hour-and-a-half debates on the House floor Monday and Tuesday.

Chief House sponsor Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) said that in all the arguments he’d heard against the bill, not one person had ever claimed it wouldn’t protect children. He said opponents’ chief arguments were against the inclusion of protections for LGBT students.

“No one would have voted against a bill with enumeration if it didn’t have sexual orientation in it; we all know that,” he said. “This isn’t about whether you agree or disagree with homosexuality. It isn’t about morality, policies or sexuality.”

Echoing similar anti-gay statements made previously during committee debates on the bill, Stam said the SVPA could open the doors to same-sex marriage. He said evidence for the adoption of the bill was “anecdotal.”

Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) said legislators had a “moral obligation” to protect students.

“Opponents of this bill believe there are some children not worth protecting,” she said. “It is time for North Carolina to stand up for all of our children so that each child can develop his or her God-given talents.”

Other legislators objected to the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender-identity since the terms are not defined in state law.

On Tuesday, several Republicans offered amendments to the bill. They said their amendments would have made the bill stronger. Democrats said Republicans were simply attempting to derail the bill.

One such amendment was Stam’s attempt to exclude protection of “pedophilia, sexual masochism or sexual sadism.” He said neither “sexual orientation” nor “gender-identity” had been defined in law.

Another amendment, offered by Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) called for disciplinary action against bullies, ranging from suspension to corporal punishment.

“This amendment is an attempt to either get the bill defeated or force it into concurrence mode,” Glazier said.

Every amendment was vote down. Six Democrats joined 51 Republicans in opposing the bill during Tuesday’s final vote.

Sex ed bill passes Senate
On the same day the House was hearing final debate on the SVPA, the Senate finally took up their debate on a controversial sexuality health education bill. The Healthy Youth Act passed the Senate 25-21.

Somewhat weaker than the version of the bill passed earlier by the House, advocates say the HYA is still an improvement over current law.

“Although the Senate version is different than the House version, in some ways it is bolder and better because it mandates comprehensive education for all students grade seven through nine,” NARAL Pro-Choice NC executive director Sean Kosofsky told Q-Notes.

If passed, the HYA would replace the state’s abstinence-only sex ed with a more comprehensive, abstinence-based curriculum. Kosofsky said he and other groups pushing for the bill are focused on getting the House to concur with the Senate version.

“I don’t want to speculate on conference until we’ve made it through concurrence,” he said. “I won’t speculate about conference until that is our only option.”

During debate on the bill, Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie, Rowan) offered an anti-gay amendment that called for prohibiting the promotion or teaching of non-heterosexual relationships. Some legislators questioned whether the amendment might have the unintended effect of prohibiting any counseling for LGBT students.

The amendment read, “Nothing in this act shall authorize the promoting, teaching, condoning, counseling, or referral for counseling other than for heterosexual relationships.”

Brock’s amendment failed 19-28.

Although the bill is an improvement, it still contains anti-gay components of the current law, calling for local school districts to teach “that a mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.”

Both NARAL Pro-Choice NC and Equality NC are among several groups advocating for the HYA’s passage.

Be sure to pick up Q-Notes‘ July 11 print issue for more in-depth information on the School Violence Prevention Act and Healthy Youth Act, including reaction from advocates and community members across the state.