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Louisiana Legislature Revives "Don't Say Gay" Bill
The House voted to revive HB 837 after it failed to pass committee
Students at Benjamin Franklin High School protest HB 837 and other anti-LGBT legislation.
On Tuesday, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted to advance Louisiana’s version of Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB 837) to a floor vote, overriding the bipartisan Committee that voted to kill it last week. As with Florida’s law, HB 837 would ban any open discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in schools.
According to a study by GLSEN (formerly the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network) - a nationwide group of educators, scientists, and private citizens working to advise on, advocate for, and research policies designed to protect LGBTQ+ students - 76 percent of LGBTQ+ students in Louisiana experience some form of verbal harassment and 34 percent are physically harassed. Currently, 23 percent are already prevented or discouraged from discussing LGBTQ issues in school assignments.
“Findings from the GLSEN 2019 National School Climate Survey demonstrate that Louisiana schools were not safe for most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) secondary school students,” the report states. “The vast majority of LGBTQ students in Louisiana regularly (sometimes, often, or frequently) heard anti-LGBTQ remarks. Many also heard school staff make homophobic remarks (23%) and negative remarks about someone’s gender expression (34%).”
On Tuesday, Rep. Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City) used a rare procedure and asked his colleagues to discharge the bill and move it before the Committee of the Whole, giving all representatives the chance to vote on it. The house voted 55-39 in favor of the move. Although representatives can now bring opponents and supporters to testify during the bill’s hearing, many longtime legislative observers can’t recall this process ever happening on the House floor before.
“Anti-LGBTQ+ politicians are pulling out all the stops in their attempt to censor and control students and teachers. It’s absurd that politicians are resorting to this kind of behavior,” said SarahJane Guidry, Executive Director of Forum for Equality. “Moving this bill forward at the expense of LGBTQ+ students’ well-being is a shameful political trick. It’s time for our elected officials to halt this bill once and for all and return their focus to the real issues facing families in our state, like quality health care and economic programs.”
According to a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH), 24% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students attempted suicide in the last year, compared with only 6.4% of heterosexual students. The number of transgender high school students who attempted suicide is believed to be as high as 35 percent. In addition, LGBTQ adolescents are 190% more likely to use alcohol and other drugs than heterosexual adolescents. Stigma and minority stressors such as discrimination and harassment are believed to be the drivers of these negative health outcomes.
“Given the proportion of time that LGBTQ students spend in school, the structure of these environments is important for the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents. For LGBTQ students, schools have the potential to be sites of stigma-related risk factors or protective factors,” the study states.
“All children, including transgender children, deserve to be supported and respected in school. Positive representation of LGBTQ+ people and issues in school is a critical part of creating an inclusive environment that protects LGBTQ+ kids’ safety and well-being,” said Peyton Rose Michelle, Secretary of the Board of Directors for Louisiana Trans Advocates. “This bill would also deny all students–not only LGBTQ+ students–the opportunity to learn accurate history and important lessons about the diverse world around them. I’m disappointed to see politicians putting partisan games above young people’s rights and freedoms. But I’m so proud of the young people and families who have already spoken out against this dangerous censorship effort and we won’t stop fighting for safe, supportive and liberating education for all.”
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