Louisiana state legislator introduces ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

Olivia Warren, Staff Reporter

A Louisiana state representative introduced a new bill that would prohibit primary and secondary school educators from discussing sexuality and gender identity in the classroom. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On March 17, Louisiana state legislator Dodie Horton filed a new bill, HB-837, which would prohibit primary and secondary school educators from discussing sexuality and gender identity in the classroom — legislation which mirrors proposals in Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Indiana.

The proposal would “prohibit classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in public schools in grades K-8. The bill would also prohibit staff from discussing their own “sexual orientation or gender identity” in grades K-12. 

“This is not a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. It has nothing to do with someone’s lifestyle choice,” Horton said in an interview with the Louisiana Illuminator. “Their sexual orientation is between them and God and it’s their choice.”

Horton, a Republican, represents Louisiana’s District 9.

Gender and sexuality experts argue that the bill would have significant negative effects on marginalized children.

Lisa Wade, associate professor of sociology and gender and sexuality studies at Tulane University, said that “people behind these laws are using sexuality (and counting on it being stigmatized and shameful) in order to dehumanize people they don’t like. It’s a political strategy and it’s ugly.”

“Attempting to erase these identities from the school setting is harmful to both adults and children who have these identities because it exacerbates confusion and shame,” Wade said.

HB-837 relies on the assumption that sexual orientation and gender identity is based on external factors and agency, but that claim can be harmful, Wade said. 

“[There] is some evidence that there are universal biological foundations for [sexual orientation and gender identity], but the validity of these identities and the humanity of the people within these categories is not dependent on whether they’re biological or chosen,” Wade said. 

Wade stated that this bill would be harmful to all Louisiana children, not just those in the LGBTQ+ community.  

“It’s cruel to heterosexual cisgender children, too,” Wade said, “as it denies them the opportunity to learn … an ignorance that will likely … set them on the path to be ignorant or bigoted.”

Mike Strecker, Tulane’s assistant vice president for communications said that, “Tulane seeks to promote a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for our LGBTQ+ members. This proposed legislation will not impact the university’s curriculum.”

On March 14, during his State of the State address, Governor John Bel Edwards said that several bills introduced to the state legislature this year “only serve to divide us.” When asked for a comment about HB-837, his office echoed this comment.

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