JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Anti-gay legislation made its comeback in the Missouri legislature on Thursday as House Bill 2051, sponsored by Rep. Steve Cookson (R-Dist. 153), was referred to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
The text of the bill is short, but the intent is wide-ranging:
170.370. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.
The bill, widely believed to violate of the First Amendment guarantee of Freedom of Speech, not only attempts to prohibit schools from even discussing gay and lesbian issues; it also aims to keep Gay-Straight Alliances from meeting on school grounds as approved extracurricular entities.
For the last several years – PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization and its allies have worked to advance pro-LGBT legislation, and have seen steady, continuing success.
“Filing this bill is a desperate tactic by frightened, bigoted, cynical individuals who are terrified at the advancement the LGBT community has made in breaking down the barriers to full and equal treatment under the law,” said PROMO Executive Director, A.J. Bockelman.
“Why else would they file a bill so clearly out of step with the growing trend for fairness in this state when similar legislation filed in Tennessee last year led that state’s legislature to become the object of national ridicule?” he asked.
“It’s clear that this proposed bill does absolutely nothing to protect students,” continued Bockelman. “In some ways, however, these enemies of Freedom of Speech have done us a favor. By attempting to coerce teachers and students into making this core reality of our lives literally unspeakable, they have only proved why LGBT students need greater, better, and stronger protection in our schools.”
Missouri is not the first state to push the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Tennessee advanced similar legislation through multiple votes last year, drawing national ridicule, as well as opposition from their Republican governor, Bill Haslam. Despite that legislation’s failure — Tennessee lawmakers introduced a nearly identical bill this session, which was approved by a state House committee earlier this week.