GOP lawmakers work to change ‘no promo homo’ law as AG says he won’t defend it in court

By: - April 9, 2019 10:01 pm

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Republican lawmakers are looking to amend a law barring school districts from providing instruction that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle” that is being challenged in federal court.

The move comes as the Arizona Attorney General’s Office informed legislative leaders that it won’t intervene in the lawsuit to defend the law, which is widely known as a “no promo homo” law.

The Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday informed House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann that it won’t intervene in the recent lawsuit challenging Arizona’s “no promo homo” law. The letter from Solicitor General Oramel Skinner states that the office wants to ensure that Bowers and Fann have adequate time to make an informed decision about the Legislature’s involvement in the litigation.

Matt Specht, a spokesman for Bowers, said the speaker expects to see changes to the law that will head off the lawsuit, and that the House and Senate are both working on the issue. Specht said the move to change the law is a response to the lawsuit, which was filed last month by the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Arizona, not to the letter from the Attorney General’s Office.

“While details are still being negotiated, Speaker Bowers expects that the Legislature will revise current law to address the issues raised in the lawsuit,” Specht said.

Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich, said he couldn’t comment on whether the office thought the law is legal or constitutional. Brnovich has the right and authority to intervene on behalf of the state, but he won’t exercise that power to defend the statute, Anderson said.

“I think our letter speaks for itself in terms of what our intentions are,” he said.

The lawsuit names Superintendent Kathy Hoffman and members of the State Board of Education as defendants. Hoffman has already stated her support for the lawsuit and her opposition to the law, while the board will decide its position at an April 15 meeting.

Anderson said the Attorney General’s Office decision not to defend the law has nothing to do with Hoffman’s position. Even if the Board of Education or the Legislature decides to fight the lawsuit, Anderson said that wouldn’t prevent the Attorney General’s Office from defending it on behalf of other clients because the office is set up to handle such conflicts.

Anderson said the Attorney General’s Office is hopeful that lawmakers can reach an agreement that will end the litigation, such as repealing or replacing portions of the challenged statute.

Equality Arizona last month filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the 1991 law, which prohibits public schools from providing sex education that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle,” portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle or suggests that some methods of homosexual sex are safe. Opponents of the law argue that it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, and that it restricts the teaching of HIV prevention.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”