Georgia legislature advances Don’t Say Trans bill while silencing opponents

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A Georgia bill to ban the discussion of some LGBTQ+ topics in schools advanced out of a state senate committee in a hearing where anti-LGBTQ+ advocates – including the rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ Gays Against Groomers – were allowed to speak, but pro-LGBTQ+ advocates were not.

The Georgia Senate Committee on Education and Youth voted 6-3 along party lines to advance S.B. 88, a bill that bans both public and private schools in the state from teaching “gender identity, queer theory, gender ideology, or gender transition.”

Queer theory is a field of post-structuralist critical theory that emerged from academic literary critics in the 1990s that generally challenges the idea that only heterosexual desire is normal. It is not taught in K-12 schools. The bill bizarrely defines “queer theory” as the idea that transgender and nonbinary people can exist.

Democrats called out the Republican leadership in the committee for banning pro-LGBTQ+ comments on the bill.

“I just can’t help but point out for everyone who’s here that it does seem fundamentally unfair – it’s one thing, although I disapprove of it, to allow no testimony, it’s another to allow testimony from only one side,” said state Sen. Elena Parent (D). “And I think that’s really a black eye on moving ahead on this when there are this many people here.”

Committee chair Clint Dixon (R) said that the bill has been “vetted… very extensively.”

Erin Reed at the LA Blade points out that members of anti-LGBTQ+ groups like Gays Against Groomers, the Young Republicans, and the Log Cabin Republicans were allowed to speak in favor of the bill. State Sen. Donzella James (D) asked the room how many people came to testify against the bill and many people raised their hands.

One person who spoke in favor of the bill is Georgia attorney Jeff Cleghorn, who describes himself as a “gay rights advocate fighting against Queer ideology” on social media.

“S.B. 88 is necessary because the former gay rights movement has been hijacked by those pushing this dishonest gender ideology on children,” he said. He then brought up anonymous Reddit threads as proof that it’s bad to be transgender, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Not only does the bill restrict what can be taught in schools, but it also mandates that school districts create policies requiring teachers to out transgender students to their parents. The bill would ban schools from using the correct name and pronouns of a transgender student without getting written permission from both of the child’s parents.

“Senate Bill 88 is a clear attempt by lawmakers to reframe curriculum censorship as parental involvement,” the Human Rights Campaign’s Georgia director Bentley Hudgins said. They signed up to speak against the bill but were not allowed to comment. “We know that Georgia schools are no place for curriculum censorship and for discrimination against trans and nonbinary students. A few lawmakers see a political upside in attacking LGBTQ+ young people, but this is the fourth time that this legislation came into committee, and the only time that it passed out of this committee was when they shut out a dozen of the people who came here to speak against it.”

The bill is one of ten anti-trans bills being considered in Georgia this year, according to Reed. It now goes to the Georgia State Senate floor for a vote, which will have to happen before February 29 for the bill to pass under the normal procedure. Republicans control a majority of the chamber with 33 out of 56 seats. They also have a majority in the Georgia House of Representatives, and the state’s governor is a Republican.

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