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Two anti-LGBTQ bills advanced by Louisiana Senate’s education committee

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BATON ROUGE, La. (Louisiana Illuminator) – Two anti-LGBTQ+ bills advanced Wednesday (May 15) from the Louisiana Senate’s education committee, putting them one step away from final legislative approval.

The committee advanced House Bill 121 by Rep. Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City), which prohibits the use of transgender and nonbinary youth’s chosen names and pronouns in public K-12 schools without parental permission.

House Bill 122 by Rep. Dodie Horton (R-Haugton), which limits discussion of gender and sexuality in public K-12 schools, was also approved.

Both bills were advanced without objection. Sen. Katrina Jackson-Andrews (D-Monroe) was the only Democrat present.

The legislature approved both bills last year. Then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed them, and Republicans were unable to overturn his action. Lance Maxwell, a legislative liaison for Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, attended the committee meeting in support of Crews’ and Horton’s bills.

Wednesday’s emotional hearing marked the latest step for an advancing culture-war agenda, once held back under a Democratic governor. With the support of an ultra-conservative in the governor’s mansion, a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ proposals are rapidly advancing toward enactment.

“I don’t know how y’all continue to hear things from us about our pain and our trauma, and just still pass bills,” said Peyton Rose Michelle, executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates. “I don’t know how y’all sit through these things, and you don’t break down.”

Crews’ bill would require teachers and other school personnel to use a student’s given name and pronouns that align with their birth sex, unless a student has permission from their parents to use their chosen name. The proposal has been promoted as a “parental rights” bill.

“This bill is a grave violation of parental rights by prioritizing the moral objections of others over the fundamental rights of transgender students to be recognized by their chosen names, pronouns and identities,” said SarahJane Guidry, executive director of LGBTQ+ rights group Forum For Equality. “This legislation sets a dangerous and discriminatory precedent.

“This relentless focus on legislating the lives of a small, vulnerable population diverts precious time, money and energy away from addressing real educational issues.”

Under Crews’ bill, teachers would be allowed to disregard a parent’s choice to respect their transgender or nonbinary child’s name and pronouns if they have religious opposition to doing so.

In an interview, Crews said that while his bill supports parental rights, parents should not be able to eclipse somebody else’s religious rights.

His bill does not have an exception for those who have a religious opposition to deadnaming or misgendering students. Deadnaming is when someone uses a transgender or nonbinary person’s birth name or “dead name” against their wishes. Misgendering occurs when someone refers to an individual by a gender to which they do not identify.

While the bill would allow parents to request a classroom change if a teacher disregards their permission for their transgender or nonbinary child to use their name or pronouns, it does not require this change to take place. Advocates have argued such classroom changes might not be feasible in smaller schools.

Jacob Newsom, an Ascension Parish public school teacher, said disregarding students’ names and pronouns would make them uncomfortable, which he believes would hamper their learning environment.

“How am I going to reach this child? How am I going to effectively teach this child?” Newsom said.

“There is an undeniable correlation between feeling safe and secure and being able to learn,” added Megan Sheehan-Dean, a child education expert.

At the core of Crews’ proposal is his belief that parents have the right to know whether their children are transgender. Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community say the bill would force transgender youth to out themselves to their parents or else be deadnamed and misgendered at school. They have raised concerns about what happens when parents find out and don’t approve.

A survey from the Trevor Project found 38% of transgender women, 39% of transgender men and 35% of nonbinary youth have experienced homelessness as a result of parental rejection.

Horton’s bill is similar to a Florida law referred to by critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 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 said she didn’t believe teachers should discuss their “lifestyle choices” with students.

“Having sexualized personal discussions between educators and students in our classrooms are not appropriate, and they can rob our children of their innocence while imposing suggested influence over their developing young minds,” Horton said.

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 (GSA) and other LGBTQ+ student organizations.

When asked by committee Chair Sen. Rick Edmonds (R-Central), Horton agreed that heterosexuality falls under “sexual orientation” and is also not appropriate for classroom discussion.

The bills will next be discussed in the state Senate.

This story was produced by Fox 8′s news partner The Louisiana Illuminator, part of of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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