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New Louisiana “Don’t Say Gay” bill would ban LGBTQ teachers from coming out

Florida don't say gay bill, student walkouts, Florida, Ron DeSantis
Florida students protest the "Don't say gay" billPhoto: Nadine Smith

Republicans in the Louisiana House have used a rare procedure to revive a don’t Don’t Say Gay bill that had previously died after a bipartisan vote had stalled the bill in a House education committee.

The bill, H.B. 837, would prohibit kindergarten through eighth grade public school employees from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in general with students. The law would also prevent kindergarten through 12th grade employees from discussing their own sexual orientations and gender identities, something that would make it illegal for teachers to reference their own gender or marital status, although it’s unlikely that the bill will be enforced against cisgender or heterosexual teachers.

Related: Students stop school’s censorship of yearbook story on youth protest against “Don’t Say Gay” law

State Rep. Dodie Horton (R) sponsored the bill, but it failed to advance out of the House Education Committee last week. But this week, the state House voted to override the committee’s decision in order to give the state House a chance to vote on it.

The procedure, known as “Committee of the Whole,” was used to work around the state’s constitution, which requires a bill to be approved by a committee before moving on to the state House.

Republicans will now bring the revived bill to a floor vote.

The bill is troubling for two reasons. First, it’s part of a nationwide push by Republicans to ban LGBTQ issues from schools. Republicans have called opponents of these bills pedophilic “groomers,” effectively encouraging violence against them.

Second, if passed, the bill will likely roll back what little progress Louisiana schools have made on LGBTQ inclusion. A 2019 study by the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network (GLSEN) found that 10 percent of students in the state were taught positive representations
of LGBTQ people, history, or events. Additionally, 75 percent of state students reported experiencing anti-LGBTQ harassment in schools. These numbers will likely worsen if LGBTQ issues are banned from classrooms.

The bill’s opponents have accused Republicans of overriding the standard legislative process to target LGBTQ people.

“Anti-LGBTQ+ politicians are pulling out all the stops in their attempt to censor and control students and teachers,” said Sarah Jane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality, the state’s LGBTQ advocacy organization.

“It’s absurd that politicians are resorting to this kind of behavior,” Guidry continued. “Moving this bill forward at the expense of LGBTQ+ students’ well-being is a shameful political trick. It’s time for our elected officials to halt this bill once and for all and return their focus to the real issues facing families in our state, like quality health care and economic programs.”

Peyton Michelle, Secretary on the Board of Directors of Louisiana Trans Advocates, said, “Positive representation of LGBTQ+ people and issues in school is a critical part of creating an inclusive environment that protects LGBTQ+ kids’ safety and well-being. This bill would also deny all students–not only LGBTQ+ students–the opportunity to learn accurate history and important lessons about the diverse world around them.”

“I’m disappointed to see politicians putting partisan games above young people’s rights and freedoms,” Michelle added. “But I’m so proud of the young people and families who have already spoken out against this dangerous censorship effort and we won’t stop fighting for safe, supportive and liberating education for all.”

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