Home » Senate panel advances Louisiana’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and pronoun ban

Senate panel advances Louisiana’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and pronoun ban

by Minden Press-Herald

BATON ROUGE—The Senate Education Committee advanced bills Thursday that would ban discussion of gender and sexual orientation in schools and prohibit teachers from using a student’s preferred name or pronoun without their parent’s written permission if it differs from their biological sex. 

The bill to restrict gender discussion was modeled after a Florida law that critics refer to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The Louisiana version, House Bill 466, was sponsored by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton.

The other bill, House Bill 81, would require parents to submit a form in order for public school teachers and employees to use a name that is not on the student’s birth certificate or to use pronouns that are not in accordance with the student’s sex. Rep. Raymond J. Crews, R-Bossier City presented that bill.

Crews’ bill passed 3-1. Three Republicans– Sen. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles; and Sen. Robert Mills, R-Minden; and Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton—voted for the bill. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, opposed it.

A motion by Fields to defer Horton’s bill failed 3-1, and then Fields announced that the bill had advanced despite his objection.

The House has already passed both of the bills, and they now go to the Senate floor.

Horton’s bill would require that no public-school teacher, employee or presenter engage in discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity that deviates from state content or curricula with K-12 students. Public school employees would also be prohibited from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity during extracurricular academic, athletic or social activities with students. 

“Parents have a right and responsibility to protect their children and raise their children consistent with their own beliefs, including when and how their children are exposed to sensitive topics,” Horton said. 

Public school employees also would be prohibited from discussing their own sexual orientation or gender identity with students. 

Crews said his bill would protect students from the influence of peers and the media, create a learning environment with fewer distractions, protect teachers from the stress of keeping secrets from parents and ensure the rights of parents as primary caregivers. 

“I can’t imagine if I was a parent and I hadn’t learned that my child was struggling with certain issues about their identity, and I learned it years later when someone at the school could have told me and I could have dealt with it then,” Crews said. 

Crews’ bill would require public school employees to use a student’s name, or derivative of the name, that is listed on the student’s birth certificate unless the student’s parent provides written permission. 

Public school employees would also be required to use pronouns that align with the student’s biological sex unless the student’s parents provide written permission to do otherwise. 

The bill specifies that public school employees would not be required to use pronouns for students that differ from pronouns that align with the student’s biological sex if doing so would be contrary to their religious or moral convictions. 

If a parent disagrees with a teacher’s decisions to refrain from using a name that differs from that on the student’s birth certificate or from using pronouns that do not align with the student’s sex, the parents would be able to move their child to another teacher’s class.

Those who spoke in support of the bill noted that parents should have the right to choose how their children are addressed at school, and to know if their students prefer to use a different name or different set of pronouns. 

Opponents said that there is a need to respect students’ preferences when it comes to their gender expression and to create a safe space within schools where students can trust their teachers. 

While Crews said the bill was about parental rights, the opponents disagreed, saying that it gives teachers the right to overrule parents and students’ preference to use a different name or set of pronouns based on religious or moral convictions. 

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