Last Friday, under the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released two funding announcements regarding sexual education. For the first time, notes Ty Cobb at the Human Rights Campaign, the “language in the funding announcements for federal sexuality education dollars” urges states designing their sexual education programs to consider the needs of LGBT and questioning youth:
As States design their programs, ACF also encourages them to consider the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth and how their programs will be inclusive of and non-stigmatizing toward such participants. Under this announcement, funds are available for projects operating in one or multiple sites that target impacts on key sexual behavioral outcomes for youth.
The funding announcement funnels $55 million to the new Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) — “which supports comprehensive, evidence-based efforts to prevent teen pregnancy and reduce sexually-transmitted infections” — and $50 million to abstinence-only programs. Since marriage equality is not recognized in most states, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs often exclude LGBT students and do not fully address their needs. However, HHS does require that both PREP and abstinence programs are “medically accurate,” which is a huge step in the right direction for LGBT-inclusive sex education.
Still, past attempts to embrace LGBT-inclusive sexual education have, unsurprisingly, attracted considerable conservative vitriol. When the Minnesota legislature considered comprehensive sexual health education appropriate for its straight and LGBT students in March, the state’s right-wing Minnesota Family Council was quick to testify that comprehensive sex education would advance “homosexual behavior, anal or oral sex, things like that.”
And in June, after pressure from parents, officials in Johnson County, KS reversed their decision to accept a $300,000 comprehensive sexual education grant involving Planned Parenthood. Last month, a broad K-12 health and nutrition education proposal in Helena, MT emphasizing tolerance, safe sex, and anti-bullying caused the right-wing to go apoplectic over the curriculum as a weapon to promote a homosexual agenda.