BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Two bills heard in the legislature Wednesday look to limit discussions around sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms as well as prohibit using a student’s preferred pronouns or name.
HB466 has been likened to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law. It has been brought to the Louisiana legislature for the second year in a row. Last year it did not make it out of the House Education committee.
It would ban educators from talking about sexual orientation and gender identity if it is not explicitly approved in the state curriculum. Teachers also could not talk about their own identity or discuss the subjects with students during after-school clubs.
“Our children go to school to learn to be taught, not to be indoctrinated or confused by anyone else’s ideology,” said State Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton.
LGBTQ rights advocates spoke about how limiting a child’s ability to ask questions or hold alliance clubs could add to the already high suicide rate in that vulnerable population.
“I’m saying that children already know because it’s something that exists within you. It’s not something, as we’ve heard it referred to so far as being infiltrating school systems, infiltrating children’s minds,” said Merrilee Montgomery, a Tulane student.
Some educators spoke against the bill saying it is too broad and teachers are worried about what they can and can’t talk about in the classroom. Some worry that LGBTQ educators would not be permitted to talk about their personal lives as their heterosexual counterparts are.
“I’m uncertain about what this legislation does, if I’m uncertain about it… Think about what it does to teachers, the fear and the uncertainty that it interjects into their classrooms,” said BESE Member Belinda Davis. “We are struggling to recruit and retain teachers. And this legislation does nothing to help us.”
HB81 by state Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, would ban using a student’s preferred pronouns and require using their dead name unless they have written permission from their parents.
“A child thinks there’s some kind of confusion there or wants to talk about it. The parents definitely need to be involved in that. And that’s really what this is,” Crews said.
Advocates pushed back that some students do not feel safe telling their parents for fear of rejection or abuse. This bill would require them to come out to their parents to get permission.
Crews did add a line to the bill that allows for nicknames that are a “derivative of” their birth name.
Both bills passed out of the committee with a 7-5 vote and headed to the full House for debate.
Live coverage updates:
BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Lawmakers are expected to talk about two LGBTQ-related bills on Wednesday morning.
Six bills are up for discussion in the House Committee on Education Wednesday morning. Two of the bills are HB466 and HB81.
HB466, authored by state Rep. Dodie Horton, has to do with the “discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.” HB81, authored by state Rep. Raymond Crews, focuses on the “use of certain names and pronouns for students.”
HB466 is the first of the two bills up for discussion in front of the committee.
Rep. Dodie Horton said HB466 is a parental rights and education bill to make sure students are learning the state standard curriculum. Horton said, “Our children go to school to learn, to be taught, not to be indoctrinated or confused by anyone else’s ideology.”
Rep. Freiburg asked Rep. Horton why this isn’t being left to the local school boards to decide this issue. Rep. Horton said she wants to “protect all children.”
Rep. Jefferson said he is concerned about the bill prohibiting children from having conversations with trained educators about these subjects.
Melissa Flournoy is board chair of 10,000 Women Louisiana and spoke in front of the committee. Flournoy said the legislation creates a culture of intimidation. She talked about how growing up gay is hard. Flournoy said she was in church every day of her life and still turned out gay.
An LSU student who is trans talked about the high suicide rates in LGBT people.
The student said they came out to their teachers first. The student added, “When I did come out to my parents, I prepared to be homeless.”
They went on to explain that had they not come out, they would not have lived. The student went on to say that many children find themselves in this situation.
They concluded by saying, “If you really want to think of the children, think about the children that you want to be here. Do you want children to be here? Do you want to continue a legacy of Louisianians who are fighting for what is right?”
A former eighth-grade history teacher in Louisiana’s public school system said, “I would like to point out that there are two groups of people who will really be impacted by this bill, teachers who are not here to defend themselves today… and the transgender community.”
The teacher then expressed thanks to the transgender individuals who were in the room to represent their rights.
Another community member spoke up, saying HB81 disregards the first amendment.
“By implementing this bill, you will forcibly out dozens of children,” they said.
They went on to explain that such children would have their rights taken away and said they felt local leaders have placed religious beliefs above human rights.
When asked about the purpose of the bill, Rep. Crews said, “If you want to change your identity, I think parents need to be involved.”
He explained the bill aims to ensure parents are aware of what’s happening in their child’s life.
Rep. Patrick O. Jefferson then asked Crews, “How does this (bill) improve learning outcomes?”
Crews said it would keep students focused on reading, writing, and math, instead of keeping conversations from going to social media.
Jefferson countered by asking how social media fits into the conversation about the bill. Crews replied that every child seems to be distracted by social media these days.
Jefferson then asked, “Are you familiar with ‘No Child Left Behind’?”
Crews confirmed that he was.
Jefferson explained that a lot of the people who spoke up during the meeting felt as though they were being left behind.
As Crews began to reply to this, someone in the room began shouting and using foul language. Moderators addressed the situation quickly. Once calm was restored, the meeting continued.
Around 2:41 p.m., Rep. Amedée motioned to remove HB81, but Vice Chairman Jefferson objected.
A vote was then taken, and it was decided that HB81 would be moved to the House Floor by a vote of seven to five.
This announcement was met with a vocal display of emotion. Multiple people began shouting their opposition to the bill.