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Indiana governor signs “Don’t Say Gay” bill that forces teachers to out trans kids to their parents

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb Photo: Screenshot

Indiana’s Republican governor signed into law a bill that bans discussion of “human sexuality” in schools and could out transgender students to their families.

The state’s H.B. 1608 requires school officials to provide written notification to a child’s parent or guardian within five business days of the child asking to be called a different “pronoun, title, or word,” the Associated Press reports. It also bans discussion of “human sexuality” in pre-K through third grade.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana noted in a tweet that because the term “human sexuality” is not defined, the new law could be used to “silence any mention of LGBTQ people [in schools], ban books with LGBTQ characters, fire LGBTQ teachers, bar Pride flags in classrooms.”

“Worse yet, HB 1608 forces schools to out trans students, potentially opening these youth up to increased harassment and assault. This is cruel and an invasion of privacy,” the organization tweeted Thursday. “For trans youth, especially those who aren’t safe at home, school may be the only place to be themselves.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed the bill on Thursday, along with another bill that would make it easier to ban books from public school libraries. Supporters of H.B. 1608, including Holcomb, described it as bolstering “parental rights.” It’s scheduled to go into effect July 1.

“This law attempts to erase LGBTQ voices, histories, and lived experiences from schools,” the ACLU of Indiana tweeted. “Our attorneys are assessing the law, and we will do everything in our power to protect LGBTQ rights.”

This year, Indiana Republicans introduced a number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills that the ACLU of Indiana called a “slate of hate.” Along with the two bills signed into law this week, a third, introduced by State Sen. Gary Byrne (R) in January would have prohibited the discussion of gender fluidity, gender roles, gender stereotypes, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation in grades K-12 and included a requirement that schools disclose to parents if their child is permitted to use a bathroom not aligned with their biological sex.

Last month, Holcomb signed another bill banning gender-affirming care for trans minors that would also require young people already receiving such care to detransition.

“The Indiana legislators behind HB 1608, and the Slate of Hate, have had one goal all along, to use our laws to control what youth can and cannot read, what they can and cannot learn, and—most troublingly— who they can and cannot be,” ACLU of Indiana advocacy and public policy director Katie Blair said in a statement Thursday. “LGBTQ students exist at all ages and in all grade levels and their stories belong in Indiana schools. Our schools should protect all students—including LGBTQ students—so they can learn and thrive in a safe environment.”

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