News (USA)

Alabama advances more extreme version of its Don’t Say Gay law: It’s “almost like bullying”

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, surrounded by members of the Alabama House Democratic Caucus. He opposed the new Don't Say Gay bill.
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, surrounded by members of the Alabama House Democratic Caucus. He opposed the new Don't Say Gay bill. Photo: Brian Lyman/Montgomery Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Alabama House of Representatives has advanced a bill that would expand the state’s Don’t Say Gay law and ban Pride flags from classrooms.

Alabama public school teachers are already prohibited from leading discussions on LGBTQ+ identities through fifth grade. The new legislation, H.B. 130, would extend that restriction through 12th grade.

The bill would also remove a line from existing law stating that teachers cannot discuss LGBTQ+ identities “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Thus, it would ban discussions completely.

An amendment to the bill adds that “No teacher, or other public K-12 employee, may display a flag or other insignia relating to or representing sexual orientation or gender identity in a classroom or on the property of a public K-12 school.”

State Rep. Anthony Daniels (D), the House minority leader, likened the bill to “bullying.”

“We’re bullying a certain class or group of people because they don’t have the representation to fight back,” Daniels told the Associated Press.

The bill was approved by the House Education Policy Committee and will now advance to the House floor for a vote.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Mack Butler (R), also reportedly tried to add an amendment – which failed – specifically stating that the state’s Space Camp may not teach children about LGBTQ+ issues, a reaction to the revelation that a single employee of the Huntsville Space Camp is transgender, which angered a slew of parents and politicians who have called for the employee to be fired.

“I have some concerns about calling out one institution when we have camps and things all over,” said Republican Committee Chair Terri Collins, according to

Democratic state Rep. Barbara Drummond questioned, “Where does it stop? Do we just patchwork and keep doing it over and over again – and I’m using your word from the last public hearing – until you purify the state of Alabama?”

Butler responded that the bill would “send the message that it’s inappropriate for the instructors, the teachers, to teach sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The Alabama director of the Human Rights Campaign, Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, said the bill “does nothing but stigmatize LGBTQ+ existence in an attempt to roll back the clock on the progress we’ve made in equality.”

“Every student deserves a classroom inclusive of all identities where they are valued and safe,” Anderson-Harvey said, “while teachers should have the right to do their jobs without apprehension.”

Alabama’s Don’t Say Gay law is among several copycat laws across the country of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act.

Signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in 2022, the Don’t Say Gay law initially banned classroom instruction on sexuality and gender identity in grades Kindergarten through three but was expanded last year to ban instruction on those topics in all grades. Opponents of the law have argued its vague language has led to a chilling effect, curtailing any mention of LGBTQ+ people in Florida schools, forcing teachers back into the closet at work, and making it impossible for LGBTQ+ students to seek support or express their identities.

Earlier this month, Florida reached a settlement with a cohort of LGBTQ+ rights groups challenging the law. The settlement leaves the law in place but clarifies its language and nullifies the most dangerous parts.

The settlement, reached on Monday, clarifies that the law only applies to classroom instruction and does not ban teachers or students from identifying as LGBTQ+ or mentioning their same-sex partners or family members in the classroom. Nor does it ban discussion of LGBTQ+ people and issues in lessons or student work. It also does not apply to library books.

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