Arizona Proposes School Ban on Materials That Depict Homosexuality

An Arizona House panel has approved legislation that will ban "sexually explicit materials" in schools, including depictions of homosexuality.

If HB2495 passes the state's full House of Representatives, it will apply to textual, audio and visual materials.

The bill defines sexually explicit materials as those that show sexual conduct, including "masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse or physical contact with a person's clothed or unclothed genitals." Representations of pubic areas, buttocks and breasts are also forbidden, as well as materials that cause "sexual excitement."

There has been controversy over the inclusion of homosexuality and the Arizona House's education committee debated this week whether this was an attempt to erase all references to LGBT communities in schools.

State Rep. Jake Hoffman, a Republican, said he had brought forward the bill after finding books and other materials in some schools that showed sexual activity, reported the Daily Independent local newspaper.

Hoffman later agreed to amend the bill to exclude "classical literature" and "early American literature"—with parents' approval on a case-by-case basis.

His definition of "sexually explicit" was criticized by other Arizona lawmakers.

State Rep. Daniel Hernandez, a Democratic legislator who is openly gay, pointed out that it was less than three years ago that politicians finally removed laws that prohibited teachers from promoting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle in sex education classes.

Hernandez said Hoffman could accomplish his goal without making a specific reference to homosexuality.

"No one advocates teaching pornography," Hernandez said.

"What this bill does is once again try and erase the LGTBQ community from Arizona public schools under the guise of protecting children," he said. "Children keep getting used as footballs for politics."

The Democratic lawmaker also criticized the bill for not defining "acts of homosexuality," which could include non-explicit depictions such as two men kissing.

Hoffman refused to remove the reference, however. "I understand the point that you're attempting to make," he told his fellow lawmaker. "However, it's a political point that you're trying to score. It actually isn't relevant to the merits of the bill."

Hernandez replied: "I'm here, once again, having to stand up and say, 'This is something that is wrong,'" Hernandez replied. "Homosexuality is not inherently wrong."

After the bill is reviewed by the Arizona rules committee, it will go to the full House for a vote.

LGBTQ+ rights groups have also attacked the bill, saying it will take Arizona backwards to an era when homosexuality wasn't allowed to be discussed in schools.

Progress Arizona tweeted on Wednesday: "#HB2495 would completely abolish any safe sexual education course at our schools, & explicitly brings back 'no promo homo.' It goes a step further by censoring any literature that even remotely has sexual undertones. Shakespeare, Catcher in the Rye, & more — banned."

"No promo homo" laws were anti-LGBTQ+ curriculum laws that prohibited the mention of homosexuality in schools. Although many are no longer in effect, they can still be found in states including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas, according to LGBTQ+ legal organization Lambda Legal.

School classroom stock photo
Stock photo of a classroom. Arizona lawmakers are debating a House bill that includes depictions of homosexuality in its definition of "sexually explicit" materials it wants banned in schools. Getty