Oregon voters defeated an anti-gay initiative Nov. 7 which could have prohibited even mentioning homosexuality in public schools.
The “Student Protection Act” initiative would have banned instruction that “encourages, sanctions, or promotes” homosexuality, as defined by the state board of education. Schools found in violation of the ban could potentially have lost some or all of their state financing.
Although the measure got enough support to make it on the ballot, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Education said the agency hasn’t received complaints from parents about schools promoting homosexuality.
“It seems like a non-issue,” spokesman Larry Austin said. “We hear comments and complaints all the time about class size, school funding, and teacher quality. But our phones have been silent on this.”
The measure lost by a slim 47% to 53% margin.
Opponents of the initiative argued that the real intent was to silence discussion of homosexuality and sexuality issues in general. If the initiative had passed, it “would have been an unprecedented interference for educators,” said Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
Gay rights organizations said some of the effects would have been removing factually-based books on sexuality from school libraries, prohibiting counseling and referral for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender students, banning medically accurate AIDS/HIV prevention education, and preventing teachers from promoting respect and tolerance.
Homeowners in the Portland area displayed “No on 9” signs on their lawns. Some teachers wore stickers bearing that message, and one day, 500 students in the town of Eugene walked out of school in protest.
Scott Lively of the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), which spearheaded the anti-gay measure, said the initiative was a response to “the steady homosexualization of their society that the OCA had predicted.”
Some rural counties voted in support of the measure, while Multnomah County – which contains Portland – rejected the initiative by an almost 2-to-1 margin.