Originally published: April 16, 2009, 8:51 a.m.
Updated: April 16, 2009, 3:50 p.m.

RALEIGH — A bill that would replace North Carolina’s abstinence-until-marriage sex education curriculum with a more comprehensive sex ed approach passed 62-52 the House in its third and reading on Thursday.

Supporters of the Healthy Youth Act (HB 88) say a more inclusive and effective “abstinence-based comprehensive sexuality health education” is a better fit for Tar Heel school children in grades 7-9.

The bill has become a hot button issue across the state. Opponents and conservative groups say the measure could destroy respect for “traditional marriage.” The bill had instructed school districts to teach students respect for marriage and “long-term committed relationships.” It was amended to remove the latter yesterday.

The amendment, offered by Democratic Whip Rep. Bruce Goforth, was meant to make the measure less controversial. Conservative groups, including the Family Policy Council and Christian Action League, had said inclusion of respect for long-term committed relationships would open the possibility of teaching students about homosexuality.

Some representatives said such amendments weakened the bill.

“Comprehensive sex education is based on biology, not some ideological, political agenda,” Rep. Earl Jones (D-Guilford) said, according to The News & Record.

Despite the removal of the committed relationship language, EqualityNC Executive Director Ian Palmquist told Q-Notes he believes the bill remains the right choice for school children.

“Some compromises had to be made to get it through the house,” he said. “It’s certainly not perfect and not everything we wanted but we do believe it is still an important step forward in providing kids accurate information to protect themselves.”

Palmquist said polls and experiences from counties with comprehensive sex ed curricula show that most parents will choose a comprehensive option if it is available.

EqualityNC has signed on to support the bill with several youth and health organizations across the state.

Palmquist said “a lot of work” remains to see the bill passed in the Senate. “It is possible,” he said.

Stay tuned to Q-Notes for the most up-to-date information on this story.

More: Read the text of the Healthy Youth Act, as passed by the House on Wednesday, April 15.

Audio: Listen to the audio of the debate over removal of “long-term committed relationships” from The News & Record.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.