Mississippi Sex-Ed Law Permits Teachers To Instruct Students That Homosexuality Is Illegal

Under Mississippi’s mandated sex-education curriculum, teachers are permitted to instruct students that homosexual activity under the "unnatural intercourse" statute is illegal, while enforcing that a "monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the only appropriate setting for sexual intercourse."

While the law allows teachers to opt out of presenting programs related to the state’s anti-gay sex policy, any instruction contradicting the statute is prohibited under the state’s sex-ed curriculum.

Since 2012, Mississippi has required all school districts to offer an abstinence-centered sex-ed curriculum, although 12 percent of districts have not yet implemented any sex-ed courses, according to a recent study by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy.

The law also requires male and female students to be instructed in separate classrooms and prohibits condom demonstrations in schools.

Despite the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas invalidating all state laws against gay sex as unconstitutional, several states maintain various anti-sodomy laws on the books, including Alabama, Louisiana and Utah.

A November 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that “Mississippi probably continues to be the most conservative state in the country when it comes to same sex marriage." Only 22 percent of Mississippi voters said they support marriage equality, with 69 percent thinking it should be illegal.

On Thursday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed a contentious bill potentially legalizing anti-LGBT discrimination throughout the state under the auspices of religious freedom.

"It's the first time in my life that I've actually considered moving out of Mississippi," Jeff White, a founder of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lesbian and Gay Community Center, said on Thursday. "It made me physically ill the past few days, realizing what they're trying to do."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Mississippi's sex-ed curriculum required teachers to instruct students that specific homosexual activity is illegal. In fact, the law permits teachers to opt out of presenting anti-gay sex instruction as long as no program contradicts the anti-sodomy statute. The headline has also been changed to reflect this point. Language has also been added describing the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling that declared state anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional.

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