Seven Colorado Democrats advanced a comprehensive sexual education bill at the State Capitol on Wednesday, after a contentious hearing that ended just before midnight. The hearing included testimony from dozens of opponents and a flurry of attempted Republican amendments to the bill.
The legislation aims to expand sexual education curriculum at public schools to include such topics as consent, birth control and STD prevention.
It would also use $1 million of state funds to help schools expand their sex ed curriculum.
Some opponents of the bill fear lawmakers are trying to get involved with curriculum that should be overseen by parents and individual school districts.
"We need to be asking the public what they think needs to be taught, not telling them what needs to be taught," Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, said before he opposed the bill.
Catlin also noted several priests and religious groups testified against the legislation.
"There is a deeply spiritual component to this, and we as a state are stepping into that," he said. "That is my biggest concern."
The Democrats on the Health and Insurance Committee view the legislation differently.
They said it will help teach students about positive LGBT relationships and help prevent sexual assaults.
The committee also heard from several students who said their current sexual education lessons aren't comprehensive enough.
"I think the overwhelming majority of the young people who spoke tonight said the sex education in their school is lacking," said Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton.
The 10-hour hearing drew hundreds of parents, teachers and students to the Capitol building. Some drove from places as far away as Lamar, near the Kansas border, to testify. People unable to get a seat in the hearing room took up every spare seat and bench in the basement of the building as they listened to the testimony on their phones.
State law currently prohibits public schools from teaching abstinence-only sexual education. Schools are not required to teach sex ed at all, but if they do, the state says it must be comprehensive.
Republicans on the committee tried to amend the bill several times. One amendment would have left the curriculum decisions up to individual school boards.
The bill passed on a party line vote, with the four Republicans on the committee opposed.
It now heads to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration.
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