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Lawmaker suggests meaning of ‘consent’ varies during 6-hour debate on sex ed bill

Republicans can't kill the sex ed bill rolling through the Democrat-controlled legislature, but they can kill time. House GOP forced more than six hours of debate on the bill Friday, during which State Rep. Perry Buck suggested the meaning of "consent" can vary by county.

DENVER — What happened at the Colorado State Capitol on Friday is what "Schoolhouse Rock!" didn't teach you. It's what happens when one party is in control, the other party doesn't want a bill to pass, but is powerless to stop it.

Colorado Republicans did all they could to stall the passage of the sex education bill the Democrat-controlled House.

HB19-1032 was the subject of a 10-hour committee hearing on Jan. 30. Much of that hearing involved testimony based on misinformation - misinformation that was spelled out during Friday's debate when Rep. Steve Humphrey (R-Ault) read an email from a constituent.

"House Bill 19-1032 requires schools that provide comprehensive sex education to teach pro-LGBTQ sex education while banning the teaching of religious or values-based sex education," Humphrey read from the email.

He didn't say if he corrected the constituent with accurate information, but here it is: sex education classes in Colorado have been required to include conversations on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities since the 2013 version of this bill was signed into law by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The current sex ed bill doesn't add that. It already exists. And it doesn't ban religious sex education discussion.

"Nothing…shall be interpreted to prohibit discussion of moral, ethical or religious values of individuals as they pertain to human sexuality, healthy relationships or family formation," the bill states.

"However, human sexuality instruction must not explicitly or implicitly:

  • Teach or endorse religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrine
  • Use shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools
  • Employ gender norms or gender stereotypes
  • Exclude the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals."

There were 30 amendments introduced during the 6-and-a-half-hour floor debate on Friday. Two of those amendments passed.

During last month's committee hearing, some people who testified in opposition described explicit sexual acts that they thought were going to be taught to kids as a result of the legislation.

Read Marshall's tweet thread from Friday's testimony

They won't be taught that.

During Friday's floor debate, the text of one amendment read out loud explicitly described an abortion.

Part of what the 2019 legislation does do is require teaching students the definition of "consent."

Early in the debate on Friday, Rep. Perry Buck (R-Windsor) took issue with teaching consent.

"You cannot do a one-size-fits-all. My district, the unincorporated God bless them all, don't want to be told what they think is consent, what they think is their curriculum, everybody has different degrees," said Buck.

The bill defines "consent" as "the affirmative, unambiguous, voluntary, knowing agreement between all participants in each physical act within the course of a sexual encounter or interpersonal relationship."

The bill still allows parents to opt their children out of the sex education classes.

Republican lawmakers also asked for the bill to be sent to the House Education committee. When it was assigned, the House Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder) assigned it to the Health and Insurance Committee. The motion to send it to the Education Committee failed.

It ultimately passed and will move on to the Senate, where it will be assigned to a committee for what will likely be another 10+ hour hearing.

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