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‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, preferred name, pronoun prohibition advance in Louisiana


‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, preferred name, pronoun prohibition advance in Louisiana

Apr 16, 2024 | 7:09 pm ET
By Greg LaRose
‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, preferred name, pronoun prohibition advance in Louisiana
Rep. Raymond Crews gained approval from the Louisiana House of Representatives for a bill that would allow teachers and school employees to reject the preferred names and pronouns of students in K-12 public schools. (LAI photo)

Two conservative proposals at the front lines of culture wars in Louisiana advanced Tuesday from the state House of Representatives, putting them on course to become law with the blessing of Gov. Jeff Landry. 

One measure prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom and during extra-curricular activities. The other would restrict the use of student’s preferred names and pronouns.

Both head next to a Senate committee for consideration. 

Under House Bill 121, parental approval would be required before a teacher could use a student’s preferred name and pronouns, but that teacher could still object for religious reasons. 

Its sponsor, Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, was questioned about why his proposal defers to teacher preference over parental rights, the latter being a benchmark of several pieces of conservative-backed bills on education.  

“If there’s a choice, then truth should come first,” said Crews, who described his legislation as a means to combat “social engineering.”

The House voted 68-30 to send the bill to the Senate after members added an amendment that would prohibit schools from disciplining a student that deadnames or misgenders a peer. 

Deadnaming is when someone uses a transgender or nonbinary individual’s birth name, or “dead name,” against their wishes. Misgendering occurs when someone refers to an individual as a gender that they do not identify. Several representatives raised concerns that this amendment could lead to more bullying of transgender youth — a fear Crews dismissed. 

Studies approximate 80% of transgender youth have considered suicide, and 40% report at least one suicide attempt. 

Legislators also added — then removed — a Rep. Jason Hughes’ amendment that would have applied the proposal’s language to any private school that receives state money.

Hughes, D-New Orleans, successfully attached a similar amendment to a bill the House approved last week that would require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in all classrooms – including K-12 schools, colleges and universities – the state finances. 

The topic of one of the commandments – adultery – came up during discussion of House Bill 122, which critics refer to as a“Don’t Say Gay” bill. It raised questions of whether a teacher would run afoul of the legislation if a student asked them to explain the term. 

The bill, by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, is similar to a Florida law, though her proposal is much broader and would apply to K-12 grades, whereas Florida’s law applies only to early grade students. 

Florida recently settled a lawsuit over the law filed by civil rights activists. As part of the agreement, students and teachers are permitted to discuss gender and sexuality as long as it is not part of classroom instruction. 

Horton’s bill would not just apply to classroom instruction. It also prohibits “covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity” during any extracurricular and athletics events, meaning it could potentially hinder student chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance and other LGBTQ+ student organizations. 

Horton, who also sponsored the Ten Commandments bill, said her proposal seeks to eliminate “inappropriate influence and persuasion” in the classroom. 

Horton acknowledged no school board had asked her to sponsor the bill, one that she’s brought before the Legislature for the past three years. Last year’s version gained approval from lawmakers but was vetoed by then-Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Horton said the bill would allow teachers to focus on the curriculum at hand, which she believes the large majority of teachers are already doing.

“Unfortunately, there’s a small percentage that has ulterior motives that we cannot allow,” she said.

The House approved the proposal in a 69-28 vote, with lawmakers rejecting an amendment from Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, that would have placed such policy matters in the hands of local school boards.

Piper Hutchinson contributed to this report.