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Utah governor vetoes bill curbing sex education in public schools

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday vetoed a controversial bill banning public schools from teaching contraception as a way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The bill, which also sought to bar instruction on homosexuality or other aspects of human sexuality other than the teaching of abstinence, would have been the first of its kind in the nation if it had become law.

It had previously cleared Utah's Republican-controlled House and Senate, and Herbert was widely expected to sign it.

In vetoing the measure, dubbed HB 363, Herbert said that as a parent and grandparent he considered proper sex education in public schools an important component to the moral education youngsters receive at home.

"If HB 363 were to become law, parents would no longer have the option the overwhelming majority is currently choosing for their children. I am unwilling to conclude that the state knows better than Utah's parents as to what is best for their children," he said.

"In order for parents to take on more responsibility, they need more information, more involvement, and more choice — not less. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice," he added.

Teaches children 'how to have sex'
Supporters of the bill argued that sex education was best left up to parents.

Gayle Ruzicka, president of Utah Eagle Forum, a conservative group that describes itself as "leading the pro-family movement", told the Salt Lake Tribune that it was a "sad day for the children of Utah."

According to the paper, Ruzicka met with Herbert on Friday before he made the decision to veto the bill.

"It never entered our minds that the governor, who told us he was conservative, would veto such an appropriate piece of legislation," she said. "By vetoing this bill, he just sent the message that Utah's stamp of approval [is] on teaching children how to have sex, teaching contraception and saying this is the safest way to have sex."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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