Louisiana's 'Don’t Say Gay' bill dies in committee

Legislation that would have barred discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Louisiana’s K-12 schools, a version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill approved in Florida, was killed Tuesday in committee.

In a 4-7 vote, every Democrat on the House Education Committee and Republican Reps. Stephanie Hilferty of New Orleans, Barbara Freiburg of Baton Rouge and Vincent St. Blanc of Franklin voted against the legislation.

Filed by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, House Bill 837 would have made it illegal for schools to incorporate “classroom instruction or discussion relative to sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through eight-grade classes. Teachers and school employees would have been prohibited from discussing “personal sexual orientation or gender identity” with students in grades K-12th grade.

“Certain teachers to use classroom instructional time to share their personal sexual orientation or gender identity preferences with our most vulnerable citizens, our children,” Horton said to the committee.

Randy Harper, pastor of Bellaire Baptist Church in Bossier City, said he reached out to Horton to get her to sponsor the bill. He told the education committee children’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be heavily influenced by what their teachers say in the classroom.

“Students feel their identity … comes from (teachers),” he said.

Horton said she felt teachers bringing their “lifestyle preferences” into the classroom are not appropriate. They should teach the curriculum, “not coming in and say (to the class), ‘Hey, everybody! I was a woman yesterday, but tomorrow I may be Mr. So and So,’” she said.

Opponents of the bill said they felt the bill’s ban was too broad and barred too much educational material from the classroom.

Dr. Belinda Davis, an appointee of Gov. John Bel Edwards on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, testified against the legislation. Horton’s bill would make the newly approved social studies standards unteachable, she said, particularly in relation to marriage or homosexuals targeted during the Holocaust.

The state’s social studies standards earned praise from conservative circles for their inclusion of various perspectives and lack of critical race theory.

To address the concern Davis raised, Horton’s bill was amended to allow classroom discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation if it’s “what is provided in the state content standards.”

When asked what she would say to students who identity as LGBTQ if her “Don’t Say Gay” bill was approved, Horton said “if the child needs help at school, then they should be referred to their counselor and someone who’s trained in that field.”

Because the bill bans discussions of gender identity, Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, asked if students would be allowed to call adults “Mr.” or “Ms.”

Horton said her bill has nothing to do with that, which was met with laughter from the committee audience. “That’s all this bill has to do with,” one person said.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jarvis DeBerry for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.