Want an example of how outrageous bills being signed into law in one state can create a domino effect in others? Let’s look at Louisiana. As Daily Kos has covered, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida recently signed the discriminatory Don’t Say Gay bill into law, essentially barring public school teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ identities and histories in the classroom, with a particular focus on elementary schoolers. Lawmakers in Louisiana managed to revive a similar bill on Tuesday, which would bar public school teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation within the school, as reported by the Shreveport Times.
HB 837, notably, did not pass an initial vote in the House Education Committee in early May, coming in at a 4-7 final vote, but lawmakers were able to revive it in the House thanks to Republican Rep. Raymond Crews, who motioned on Tuesday to have it heard in a Committee of the Whole, which essentially moves the measure to the full House floor. Sadly, it passed 55-39.
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“No teacher, school employee, or other presenter shall cover the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity in any classroom discussion or instruction in kindergarten through grade eight,” the measure, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Dodie Horton, reads in part. The bill explicitly states that all staff members, including teachers, are barred from discussing their own gender identity and sexual orientation with students at all grade levels.
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Horton has claimed that all educators should “refrain” from discussing their orientation with students. Mind you, this is never a problem when a teacher in a heterosexual marriage mentions their spouse or family, including during talks about things like holiday breaks, family vacations, or folks coming to support, say, school sporting events or recitals. This is only ever considered a problem or inappropriate when it’s coming from LGBTQ+ people.
Even still, Horton claims the bill is about protecting youth from “indoctrination of any kind” and tries to present it as a parental rights issue, meaning that students should only be exposed to what is directly on an approved curriculum, as reported by the Bossier Press-Tribune.
Again: This is only ever an issue when someone isn’t a cisgender, heterosexual person, because conservatives regard that identity as normal, and everything else as a deviation.
As we know from Republicans pushing “grooming” language, the only people painted as indoctrinators are LGBTQ+ people who are simply existing. The same people who are hysterical at the notion of a teacher allowing students to paint LGBTQ+ Pride flags in art class are, if I have to wager a guess, folks who see no issue with putting babies in gendered onesies or joking about toddlers growing up to get married. Because it’s not indoctrination if it supports cishet structural norms, right?
Daily Kos has covered countless stories of LGBTQ+ teachers already being fired from their jobs (or feeling forced to resign) even in states that don’t have this hateful legislation in place. We also know LGBTQ+ people report higher rates of job discrimination in general, and especially so for people of color and trans folks. In addition to this legislation being damaging for teachers by essentially asking them to teach from the closet, it’s absolutely damaging for students.
If we’re taught from a young age that our identities could get us penalized or fired, how are we supposed to feel confident ever living openly? Suddenly, the closet makes sense. And that’s certainly what Republicans want.
Per the Los Angeles Blade, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, released a statement per his office, saying in part, “Some of the bills being brought up this session do nothing to make lives better. Nothing to continue moving us forward. They only serve to divide us. And frankly, some are reminiscent of a dark past that we should learn from, not relive.”
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