AUSTIN, Tex., Nov. 5 (AP) - The Texas Board of Education
approved new health textbooks for the state's high schools
and middle schools on Friday after the publishers agreed to
change wordings in the texts to depict marriage strictly as
the union of a man and a woman.
The decision involves two of the biggest textbook
publishers and is another example of Texas' exerting its
market influence as the nation's second-largest buyer of
textbooks. Officials say the decision could affect hundreds
of thousands of books in Texas alone.
On Thursday, a board member said that proposed new books
ran counter to a Texas law banning the recognition of gay
civil unions because the texts used terms like "married
partners" instead of "husband and wife."
After hearing the debate on Thursday, one publisher, Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, agreed to include a definition of
marriage as a "lifelong union between a husband and a
wife." The definition, which was added to middle school
textbooks, was already in Holt's high school editions, Rick
Blake, a company spokesman, said.
The other publisher, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, changed phrases
like "when two people marry" and "partners" to "when a man
and a woman marry" and "husbands and wives."
"The board expressed an interest in having us" make the
change, Mr. Blake said. "We thought it was a reasonable
thing to do."
But Mr. Blake said the publisher did not plan to add its
definition of marriage in books to be sold outside Texas. A
spokeswoman for Glencoe/McGraw-Hill did not immediately
respond to questions.
A list of the books that were approved by the board, as
well as those that were not, is sent to school districts
for guidance when they choose books.
One board member, Mary Helen Berlanga, a Democrat, asked
the panel to approve the books without the changes, but her
proposal was rejected on a 10-to-4 vote.
"We're not supposed to make changes at somebody's whim,"
Ms. Berlanga said. "It's a political agenda, and we're not
here to follow a political agenda."
Another board member, Terri Leo, a Republican, said she was
pleased with the publishers' changes. She had led the
effort to get the publishers to change the texts, objecting
to what she called "asexual stealth phrases" like
"individuals who marry."
"Marriage has been defined in Texas, so it should also be
defined in our health textbooks that we use as marriage
between a man and a woman," Ms. Leo said.
Texas legislators enacted a law last year that prohibits
the state from recognizing same-sex civil unions. The state
already had a ban on gay marriage.
Neither publisher made all the changes that Ms. Leo
initially sought. For instance, one passage that was
proposed to be added to the teacher's editions read:
"Opinions vary on why homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals
as a group are more prone to self-destructive behaviors
like depression, illegal drug use and suicide."
Randall Ellis, the executive director of the Lesbian/Gay
Rights Lobby of Texas, said the board had overstepped its
bounds in suggesting and adopting the new wording.
"Their job is to review for factual information and instead
what we see is the insertion of someone's ideology and
agenda into the textbook of middle schoolers," Mr. Ellis
The board's approval caps months of debate over health
textbooks. Much of it had centered on how much sex
education should be included.