Utah Governor Vetoes Abstinence-Only Sex Education Bill

March 20, 2012 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) on Friday night vetoed a bill (HB 363) that would have required public schools that offer sex education classes to focus solely on abstinence and banned teachers from educating students about contraceptives, homosexuality or premarital sex, the AP/St. George Spectrum reports (AP/St. George Spectrum, 3/17).

Herbert announced his veto on his Twitter account, tweeting that the legislation "goes too far by constricting parental options" (Gehrke/Schencker, Salt Lake Tribune, 3/16). In a statement, he said he believes that sex education "is best taught in the home" and that school instruction should "never supplant, but rather support and supplement" lessons from parents. He added that school-based sex education should stress that abstinence is the only way to avoid negative consequences of sex outside of marriage and that the state should not interfere with parents' right to choose how their children are educated (North Logan Herald Journal, 3/16).

"I am convinced the existing statutory framework respects these two principles," Herbert said (Salt Lake Tribune, 3/16). Under the current law, parents must provide written permission before their children can participate in lessons on human sexuality (North Logan Herald Journal, 3/16).

Paul Krueger, who started an online petition that garnered more than 30,000 signatures opposing the bill, praised the veto, adding that students "weren't going to get the information they needed to protect themselves" under the measure. The Utah PTA and Utah Education Association also had urged Herbert to veto the bill (Salt Lake Tribune, 3/16).

Herbert's veto was unexpected (Bernick, Reuters/Huffington Post, 3/17). Gayle Ruzicka -- president of the Utah Eagle Forum, which supported the bill -- said, "It never entered our minds that the governor who told us he was conservative would veto such an appropriate piece of legislation."

The Legislature could call itself into session and attempt to override the veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers. The bill did not receive two-thirds support when it passed the House (Salt Lake Tribune, 3/16).