The Ohio House of Representatives is slated to vote Thursday on a bill that will ban people or organizations that "condone" touching aimed at sexual arousal from teaching sexual education courses in Ohio schools.
Although the measure aims to ban the promotion "implicitly or explicitly" of any so-called "gateway sexual activity" in Ohio schools' sexual education courses — technically, called "venereal disease education" — it also bans any person or organization that "promotes, endorses, advocates, or condones gateway sexual activity" from teaching such courses.
What's more, if a student does receive instruction from a person or organization that "promotes" gateway sexual activity, the person or group could face a lawsuit from the student's parent and the court could impose up to a $5,000 fine.
The provisions were amended into the state's operating budget by Ohio House Republicans in the Finance Committee on Tuesday, according to the Columbus Dispatch, and the whole House is due to vote on the budget Thursday.
Although similar to a provision signed into Tennessee law in 2012, the Ohio provision includes a potential fine that is 10 times larger than the $500 fine contained in the Tennessee law. The definition of "gateway sexual activity" is arguably more broad as well.
"Gateway sexual activity," the Ohio amendment states, means any of the activities described as "sexual contact" in another portion of Ohio's code. The portion defines "sexual contact" as "any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person."
The Tennessee provision defines "gateway sexual activity" as "sexual contact encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior," which is "activity that puts an individual at risk for pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease."
Under the wording of the Ohio provision, if teachers approve of this "gateway sexual activity" — not just among students, according to the amendment, but in general — they will not be allowed to teach sex ed course under this provision. And, though the later language arguably requires the promotion of "gateway sexual activity" to the student in order for the lawsuit provision to kick in, that provision is ambiguous enough that it could be read to allow a lawsuit merely if the instructor promotes gateway sexual activity outside the classroom and in his or her personal life.
The Ohio House is due to vote on the budget Thursday and though state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat, intends to introduce an amendment to strip the provision from the bill, she expects the Republican-led chamber to table her amendment.
The bill still remains to be considered by the state's Republican-led Senate and then would need to be signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, also a Republican.
Lawsuits and Fines:
Ohio's "Gateway Sexual Activity" Amendment:
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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