Sochi Olympics
5:30 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Are Russia's Anti-Gay Laws All That Different From Texas?

Eight states, including Texas, have so-called 'no-promo homo' laws echoing Russia's 'homosexual propaganda' provision
Credit flickr.com/mr_t_in_dc

As the Winter Olympics in Sochi get underway, Texas-based AT&T became the first major sponsor to join a chorus of opposition to Russia's ban on so-called "homosexual propaganda." In another sign of protest, the Obama administration has sent three openly gay athletes as representatives to Sochi.

But American critics of the policy may want to look at what's on the books closer to home, notes Yale Law School professor Ian Ayres. In a commentary for KUT's upcoming daily news magazine Texas Standard, Ayres highlights so-called "no promo homo" rules codified across the U.S. – including Texas. 

(See a map of the states, via the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.)  

Indeed, Texas officially mandates that sexual education classes emphasize that homosexuality is "not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public" and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense (even though criminalizing private consensual homosexual conduct has been unconstitutional in the U.S. since 2003).  Seven other states have similar provisions.

Reeve Hamilton, who covers education for reporting partner The Texas Tribune, says "it's not surprising [many Texans] haven't heard of it" since the provision is seldom enforced.  But Reeve also says he's aware of schools in San Antonio and Edinburg which do follow the mandated policy.  

In the last Texas legislative session, three lawmakers filed  bills that would have removed the language from Texas law, but those efforts stalled – and the provisions remain on the books.