Jun 17, 2022 - Politics

Pro-gay sex ed bill stalls in Mass. House

Illustration of a set of lockers with the colors of the rainbow flag
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A bill that would require schools with sex ed to teach LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum has fizzled out in the state legislature.

  • The Healthy Youth Act would require schools to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate lessons on sex, gender and sexuality.
  • The Senate passed its version in September but the House bill has failed to advance.

The big picture: The battle over sex ed has become the kind of national flashpoint liberal Massachusetts leaders often use to elevate progressive legislation.

  • Florida's new law — which critics have dubbed "Don't Say Gay" — bans lessons on gender identity or sexual orientation until after grade 3.
  • Some red state bills, including Florida's, allow parents to sue teachers who violate the ban.

Context: Schools in Massachusetts are not required to offer sex ed, and those that do allow students — or parents on behalf of their kids — to opt out.

  • Classes are not required to cover sexual orientation, gender identity or consent.
  • The Healthy Youth Act, which is backed by LGBTQ activist group MassEquality, would require those topics if schools offer sex ed, but still allow students to opt out of the curriculum.

Bill sponsor Rep. James O'Day has been filing versions of the bill for several sessions without gaining traction with House leaders, who say the current session's agenda is set around mental health care, the state budget and clean energy.

  • The Worcester Democrat told Axios he hoped the attention brought to the subject by the Florida law and others would help Massachusetts lawmakers pass their own corrective law.

What they're saying: "While these awful things are happening in other states, this is an opportunity to have our house in order," Sen. Julian Cyr told Axios.

Between the lines: If a major social issue like sex education hasn't been prioritized by House leaders at this point in the two-year session, there's very little hope the bill will pass by July 31, when lawmakers recess for the year.

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