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Texplainer: Are Your Tax Dollars Paying for Sex Classes?

Hey, Texplainer: Is is true that sex acts are being taught to college students at state-funded gender and sexuality centers?

Students on the University of Texas at Austin campus.


Welcome to The Texas Tribune's "Texplainer" series, where we answer questions from readers like you. 

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Hey, Texplainer: Is it true that taxpayer dollars are funding sex classes taught at gender and sexuality centers on state university campuses?

Last week, state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, revived an effort to tackle one of the major problems he sees with university campuses: gender and sexuality centers.

Specifically, Christian is concerned about centers for students that focus on “gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning or other gender identity issues.” His attempted amendment to a fiscal bill last week would have banned using state dollars for such centers and, he said, prevented similarly themed student groups from meeting in campus facilities.

As an example, Christian singled out Texas A&M University in College Station, whose Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Resource Center hosted a “Safe and Fun Sex” event in March with sex therapist Cay Crow. 

Crow declined to comment about the event, but members of the Texas Aggie Conservatives attended and posted information — including a graphic video of how to engage in “safe and fun” anal sex — about the event. According to a press release, the event included discussions of “how to put a condom on someone with one’s mouth, deep-throating, g-spot stimulation, tongue piercings, condoms, genital shaving and changing the temperature of one’s mouth.”

“The course was held during a week that was focused on health and a responsible lifestyle,” said Lowell Kane, program coordinator of the GLBT Center. During Health Week, the center also held HIV and risk reduction courses, offered testing for HIV and presented suicide prevention sessions.

Justin Pulliam, a leader of the Texas Aggie Conservatives, said the emphasis of the event was more on “fun” sex rather than “safe” sex. But he says the real issue is how such centers and their events are funded.

"Texas A&M should not be using taxpayers', students', and donors' money to teach unchaste sexual behavior to young, unmarried men and women," Pulliam said in a press release issued after the event.

The GLBT center is funded through a combination of state dollars and student fees. The center’s annual operating budget is slightly more than $100,000.  Approximately $62,000 in student fees go toward the operating budget, which includes programming costs. And roughly $38,000 worth of state funds go toward staffing, though officials say that could change as the budgeting structure is re-evaluated in the wake of recent cuts.

This is not the case at every university. According to Lorraine Schroeder, director of the University of Houston's LGBT Resource Center, the center she runs receives no state funding.

Crow’s program, which was reportedly attended by more than 125 students, set the A&M center back “$20 and change,” according to Dean of Student Life Anne Reber. That was for a post-seminar meal.

While in this case the funding is very minimal, Pulliam and his fellow Texas Aggie Conservatives argue their money shouldn't be used to support something they don't believe in.

“I think the current funding is oppressive to conservative students,” Pulliam said. As far as he knows, "there are no real traditional campus organizations that receive taxpayer student fee funding for their values of abstinence, and the family."

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that campus groups can be subsidized with mandatory student fees, and that the practice doesn't violate the First Amendment rights of students who oppose the groups' programming. But student fees may not go toward religious groups, which might fit Pulliam’s description of a traditional values center. Reber said that if a nonreligious center that, as Pulliam has suggested, promotes "values of abstinence and the family" were to be organized, it would likely go through the same budgeting process as the GLBT resource center, which distributes money based on level of service to students.

Bottom line: Taxpayer funds do currently go toward the staff of at least one center that, in addition to providing other services, holds events that teach "safe and fun" sex practices. As for the money specifically dedicated to such events, those are (in the case of Crow's visit, barely) funded with student fees, which cannot be restricted to certain points of view.

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Higher education Texas A&M University-College Station