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Most Utah voters agree that Gov. Gary Herbert did the right thing by vetoing a bill that would have scaled back sex education, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune poll.

Statewide, 69 percent of registered voters ­polled said they supported Herbert's recent veto of "legislation that would have allowed school districts to drop sex education and would have required those that kept it to offer abstinence-only instruction."

The support crossed religious, party and gender lines. About 64 percent of Republicans supported the veto, as did 63 percent of Mormons. Men and women were equally supportive at 69 percent.

"The bill interfered with parental rights," said Paul Krueger, a Murray school bus driver who started an online petition urging the governor to veto the bill, which attracted tens of thousands of signatures. "Our current law is a very conservative approach to sex education in the schools, and there was just no reason to try and change that."

Krueger said, if anything, he's surprised support for the veto wasn't higher.

Herbert said he appreciates that the poll results line up "with my own thinking in wanting to veto it, but that's not the reason that I vetoed it."

"I just made a determination that it was not good policy for us, and that HB363 actually went too far in taking away parental choice," Herbert told The Tribune.

Current Utah law already allows parents to pull their kids out of sex education classes and allows school districts to teach abstinence-only. All districts already must stress the importance of abstinence, though they're allowed to teach kids about contraception as long as they don't advocate its use.

HB363 would have allowed districts to drop sex education altogether and would have prohibited instruction in contraception in those that kept it.

Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said she wasn't surprised most Utahns rejected the idea.

"I have to say I'm amazingly pleased that the governor listened to the people and had the leadership to veto this horrendous piece of legislation," she said.

Some bill supporters, however, said that if most Utahns didn't support the bill, it's likely because they didn't fully understand it.

"I felt like the bill was misrepresented at times as something that wasn't choice when actually it was more choice than we've ever had before," said bill sponsor Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden. He said it would have provided more choice to school districts by allowing them to drop sex education.

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, which supported the bill, also said people didn't have time to fully understand it.

"If they had the opportunity to read the bill, understand the bill, look at the data and understand where this was headed, I think it would be entirely different," Ruzicka said, noting that lawmakers voted in favor of HB363 because they had time to read and research it. "I guess that's why we have a representative government and why these kinds of things don't go out to the people for a vote because they can't get [all the] information."

Wright also said the fact that most Utahns support the governor's veto "just shows you are able to magnify your voice more as a governor than as a legislator."

He said he believes the governor vetoed the bill for political reasons and that the veto was "out of character for him, not consistent with past actions I've seen him take."

Herbert vetoed the bill on a Friday evening, after GOP caucuses. But he said his veto was not politically motivated: "You have to do what you think is right regardless of political consequences."

"I think it is my character and concern, being a conservative, really, that the government should not be telling you how to parent," Herbert said.

Wright, however, said he still believes sex education in schools is a problem, and he might try to run a similar bill next session, maybe even to erase sex education from schools entirely.

"The inherent problem is still there," Wright said. "It's inappropriate we destroy the innocence of youth to teach contraception in public education. It is totally unnecessary."

According to the Tribune poll, 23 percent of Utahns agree.

Retiree Beverly Person of Riverton, who participated in the poll, said sex education should be taught in the home, as some teachers don't know what they're talking about.

"Parents should be teaching this, not the teachers," said Person, 73. "I don't want teachers teaching my granddaughters about contraception."

Another poll participant, Grant Nelson of Salt Lake City, disagrees.

"We have a problem with unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases that, with a little education and schooling before the kids become sexually active, can very well be changed," said Nelson, 62.

David Osoro, of West Valley City, also supports the veto.

"Kids are going to learn about sex somewhere," said Osoro, 49. "They might as well learn the truth. It's better than picking it up from their friends."

The poll was conducted from April 9-11 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. Statewide, 625 registered Utah voters were surveyed by telephone. Participants were randomly selected, and the poll has a margin of error of no more than 4 percentage points. Twitter: @lschencker