updated 11/5/2004 8:01:46 PM ET 2004-11-06T01:01:46

The State Board of Education approved health textbooks for Texas high school and middle school students Friday, after publishers changed the wording in their books to reflect marriage as being between a man and a woman.

A day earlier some board members had argued that health textbooks should not contain “asexual stealth phrases” such as “individuals who marry” instead of husbands and wives.

The decision could affect dozens of states because books sold in Texas, the nation’s second-largest textbook buyer, often are marketed elsewhere.

Board member Mary Helen Berlanga asked the panel to approve the books without the changes.

“We’re not supposed to make changes at somebody’s whim,” Berlanga said. “It’s a political agenda, and we’re not here to follow a political agenda.”

But Republican Terri Leo argued that certain books attempted to nullify a Texas law banning the recognition of same-sex civil unions by using “asexual stealth phrases” such as “individuals who marry” instead of husbands and wives.

“I want the reader, the child to know that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Leo said in a written statement released during a board meeting Thursday.

Berlanga noted that one textbook showed a picture of a mother and a father and a young girl and her brother. “We cannot start censoring books because we do not like the terminology,” Berlanga said. “I don’t see two males or two females holding hands.”

The elected board, which has 10 Republicans and five Democrats, is allowed to reject books only because of factual errors or failure to follow state-mandated curriculum.

Randall Ellis, executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, said Leo was asserting a religious right agenda into students’ textbooks.

“My bottom line opinion is it’s irresponsible,” Ellis said. “There comes a time when you need to put your own agenda aside and do what’s best for youth.”

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