OLYMPIA — Washington’s new comprehensive sex education law is likely to go on the November election ballot as a referendum.
Parents for Safe Schools says it has turned in over 266,000 signatures — more than double the number of valid signatures needed — to the Washington Secretary of State’s office to put the new law before voters as Referendum 90.
If the office determines there are enough valid signatures, the referendum would put to a public vote Senate Bill 5395.
Earlier this year, Washington’s Democratic House and Senate majorities passed that bill — which was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee — requiring sex education in all the state’s public schools and grades.
The new law requires the relatively few Washington school districts that currently don’t teach any form of sex education to either adopt existing curriculum or create their own version.
Meanwhile, school districts already giving such lessons must come up with age-appropriate ways to expand that curriculum to earlier grades. Education officials have said the new law doesn’t ask schools to teach students about sex in lower grades, such as K-3.
Democratic lawmakers have pushed for years for the new law, which also has the support of Planned Parenthood.
But the legislation drew fierce opposition from conservatives, who raised questions about the content of sex education curriculum and called the measure a state mandate imposed upon local school districts.
GOP lawmakers and legislative leaders are backing the referendum, as well as the state’s Catholic Conference and the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
In a statement, citizen sponsor Mindie Wirth called the community response to the referendum “a historic achievement.”
Her group gathered signatures while restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic effectively shut down businesses and large gatherings where petitions would usually be circulated.
“Thousands of people across Washington became active after this extreme law was rushed through in the final days of the legislative session,” Wirth wrote in a news release. “It’s only fair that citizens have the right to vote on it.”
Inslee on Wednesday said the new law would help reduce unintended pregnancies and diseases in young people, and that he continues to support it.
“I think it made sense that we give our young people scientifically credible information, rather than fear and misimpressions,” Inslee said in a regularly scheduled news conference.