Colorado Democrats approved a bill that expands sex-ed standards after a debate in the House Friday that wasn't X-rated but certainly wasn't PG.
Republican lawmakers read from various sex-ed curriculum, including how to have fun learning about condoms and substituting grape jelly or maple syrup for lubricants. They said that wasn't appropriate for school kids.
House Bill 1081 by Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, passed on a party-line vote with all 37 Democrats in favor and all 28 Republicans opposed. It now goes to the Senate.
Duran said it was important for young people who are sexually active to know the tools to protect themselves.
"An abstinence-only approach simply hasn't worked," she said, adding a comprehensive sex-education model includes abstinence as the best method to avoid unwanted pregnancy and diseases.
"My gosh, I wish young kids were abstaining from sexual activity but the truth is that is not happening," she said.
"The real truth is eight of 10 Democratic parents, they want their kids taught abstinence," said Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, who led the fight for her caucus.
Stephens, a former policy analyst with Focus on the Family, has worked on family-planning issues for three decades and knows the politics of the issue at both the state and federal level. She reeled stats and studies off the top of her head during Friday's discussion, just as she did during the initial hearing on the bill in the House, which lasted four hours Tuesday.
In urging passage of the bill, Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, shared during both debates what he called "incredibly personal" issues. He said he sister was a teenage mother and he didn't know until he went to college that it "wasn't normal" to have a nursery at a your high school.
Moreno, who is gay, also said he struggled with his sexuality in high school and traditional sex-ed programs don't deal with the subject.
"Yes, the primary trusted guardians in a child's life should always be the parents, no doubt," he said. "But there are times when those conversations are just too difficult and sometimes it's simply more convenient not to have those conversations with their children."
The bill, which expands the state's criteria for "comprehensive sex education," requires that sex education be sensitive to gay issues. The most controversial provision for some Republicans is that students are automatically enrolled unless parents object. They said it should be the other way around.
"Under the bill, the Department of Health would award grants to schools that follow the provisions in the bill — which have absolutely nothing to do with grape jelly or maple syrup," Duran said.
That didn't sway Republicans.
Rep. Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor, said her district struggles with school performance on basic issues, such as reading and math.
"And to think that we're pushing this curriculum when we're struggling with just the basics is unfathomable for me," she said.
Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/lynn_bartels