North Carolina’s Republican-led state senate has passed a “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would prohibit educators from acknowledging LGBTQ+ identities in kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms, except when responding to “student-initiated questions.”
The bill’s provisions also require educators at all grade levels to alert parents of any “changes” related to their child’s well-being and the school’s provision of safe, supportive learning environment. This would require educators to out transgender students if they begin using pronouns or names other than those they were assigned at birth, potentially endangering the student’s well-being if they have unsupportive parents.
The bill passed along party lines and now heads to the state’s Republican-led house. While it may pass there, it’s unclear if House Republicans will get the Democratic votes they’d need in order to override an expected veto from Gov. Roy Cooper (D).
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Amy Galey (R), told the state Senate Education Committee, “It baffles me to think that this bill would be divisive, quite frankly. I cannot understand why it would be controversial to say that children 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 years old should not be taught about sexuality or sexual activity in public school classrooms — that blows my mind,” the AP reported.
However, Equality NC (ENC), the state’s LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, noted that the bill requires the removal of all instruction on gender identity and sexuality from the curriculum, including age-appropriate children’s books that contain depictions of same-sex families or gender nonconformity.
“The filing of another ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by North Carolina’s senate is a dangerous threat to LGBTQ+ youth that targets educators and students,” ENC Executive Director Kendra R. Johnson said. “Erasure from school curriculum and forced outing negatively impacts the health and mental well-being of queer and trans students and results in life-threatening consequences. All students deserve to feel safe in the classroom and to have their identities celebrated, not erased.”
State Democratic senators said that the state legislature should focus on more pressing matters, like the statewide teacher shortage.
Gov. Cooper told reporters on Tuesday that he worries the bill could harm the state’s reputation and economy. He compared it to the state’s 2016 law blocking transgender bathroom access and city-level LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination ordinances. The state lost an estimated $3.76 billion in revenue over the 2016 law.
“Not only are these kinds of bills wrong in and of themselves because they hurt people, but they also have the great potential to hurt our economy and to upset this balance that we created,” Cooper said. He pledged to veto a similar “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2022. It’s largely expected that he’ll veto this most recent version.
If he does, Republicans will need to persuade at least one Democratic representative to vote in favor of a veto override in order to achieve the procedure’s required three-fifths majority in the House chamber.
Johnson noted that over 124 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have already been introduced nationwide as states begin their new legislative sessions. Lawmakers in at least 23 other states are considering their own “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, and at least 11 states already have prohibitions against LGBTQ+ content in classrooms.