What does this mean?
While “no promo homo” laws and policies take many forms, they all generally restrict gay-inclusive instruction at school or require anti-gay instruction.
Scroll down to see if your state is on the list.
Some laws are more explicit and direct than others. Alabama, for example, requires sexual education courses to teach that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” (Alabama has not updated its law to reflect the fact that, under the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, private homosexual conduct is no longer a criminal offense in any state.) North Carolina’s law, in contrast, doesn’t expressly condemn homosexuality, but it arguably does so implicitly: Schools must teach “that a mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.”
“No promo homo” policies can also exist at the local level, as long as they don’t contradict anything in state or federal law.
Advocates and scholars have raised some serious doubt about whether these laws and policies are constitutional, but so far courts haven’t said much about them. For more analysis, you can read these thoughts from Ari Ezra Waldman on Towleroad.
Of course, regardless of what courts might say, state legislatures have the power to amend or repeal these laws. In the video below, two Alabama teenagers describe their effort to get Alabama’s anti-gay law off the books. You can sign their petition at change.org/alabamateens.
Here are excerpts of laws from the eight states that currently have “no promo homo” laws:
(c) Course materials and instruction that relate to sexual education or sexually transmitted diseases should include all of the following elements:
. . . .
(8) An emphasis, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.
C. No [school] district shall include in its course of study instruction which:
1. Promotes a homosexual life-style.
2. Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.
3. Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.
(1) Abstinence education shall be the state standard for any sex-related education taught in the public schools. For purposes of this section, abstinence education includes any type of instruction or program which, at an appropriate age:
. . . .
(e) Teaches the current state law related to sexual conduct, including forcible rape, statutory rape, paternity establishment, child support and homosexual activity; and
(f) Teaches that a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the only appropriate setting for sexual intercourse.
(4) Each local school administrative unit shall provide a reproductive health and safety education program commencing in the seventh grade that includes the following instruction:
. . . .
e. Teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
(Interestingly, North Carolina also has an anti-bullying law that specifically prohibits bullying and harassment based on, among other things, sexual orientation and gender identity. The state also repealed a more explicitly anti-gay version of its “no promo homo” statute in 2009.)
D. AIDS prevention education shall specifically teach students that:
1. engaging in homosexual activity, promiscuous sexual activity, intravenous drug use or contact with contaminated blood products is now known to be primarily responsible for contact with the AIDS virus;
2. avoiding the activities specified in paragraph 1 of this subsection is the only method of preventing the spread of the virus; . . . .
(5) The program of instruction provided for in this section [pertaining to, among other things, health and sex education] may not include a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.
(b) The materials in the education programs intended for persons younger than 18 years of age must:
. . . .
(2) state that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.
[The State Board of Education must prohibit] instruction in . . . the advocacy of homosexuality . . . .
*Note that because there is no single, “official” definition of “no promo homo,” there may be some disagreement about which states have such a law. Some sources may include Louisiana in their count, for example, based on a state law providing that “[n]o sex education course offered in the public schools of the state shall utilize any sexually explicit materials depicting male or female homosexual activity.” And some sources do not list North Carolina, perhaps because its law does not expressly condemn homosexuality, or because the state now has an inclusive anti-bullying law.