Pennsylvania’s Don’t Say Gay bill is worse than Florida’s. It may become law if Doug Mastriano wins.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano
State Sen. Doug MastrianoPhoto: Senatormastriano.com

Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are trying to pass a bill that goes further than Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill. And if Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano wins in November, it could become law.

“It is patterned after the Florida bill, but mine goes further,” said state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R), the prime sponsor of H.B. 2813.

Her bill would ban any instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity up through fifth grade. Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill only bans such conversations up through third grade.

And Borowicz made it clear that that’s just a starting point; she wants to ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades.

“It really needs to be protected up through 12th grade, we need to go all the way,” she said.

The bill doesn’t make it clear what exactly counts as “instruction.” If a teacher asks a student about their two dads, is that banned? What if a teacher displays a picture of their family on their desk, which includes their same-sex spouse? But Borowicz isn’t willing to talk about it.

“I’m not going to get into the details of all that,” she said when asked what constitutes “instruction” under her law.

Her bill would also require schools to notify parents about any health services being provided by schools and would allow parents to sue school districts if they believe the school had “the effect of encouraging” students to withhold information from parents.

When asked about what health care schools are providing students without telling parents, Borowicz brought up pronouns and “gender ideology.” There is a belief among many on the right that referring to a transgender minor with the correct pronouns is a mental health intervention and not just the polite thing to do.

In June, the state senate passed S.B. 1278, which bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity up to fifth grade and allows parents to sue if they feel that instruction on those topics isn’t age appropriate in higher grades.

“This will really add to the existing targeting and bullying of LGBTQ kids in schools,” Education Law Center of Pennsylvania senior policy advisor Sharon Ward told PennLive. “The intent of these bills seems to be to wipe out any discussion and pretend that [LGBTQ people] don’t exist.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has said that he would veto that bill and any other bills like it, but he is term-limited and isn’t running for governor this fall. If the Republican, Mastriano, beats the Democratic candidate, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, it could become law.

Mastriano doesn’t appear to be supportive of LGBTQ people. In an interview in August, he said that it’s “disgusting” that Gov. Wolf wants to ban conversion therapy.

“This is disgusting to me, where bureaucrats and Tom Wolf — and Josh Shapiro — thinks it’s okay to come in and threaten parents and therapists because their kids might be confused,” he said.

In that same interview, he claimed that schools are giving kids “graphic pornographic books,” a common claim often made by conservatives who are referring to any book with LGBTQ themes.

Real Clear Politics shows that Shapiro has a small lead in most recent polls.

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