Missouri debates ban on LGBTQ education for all grades

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers argued Wednesday over a bill that would ban most LGBTQ education subjects for all grades in the state’s public schools.

The proposal is modeled after a Florida education law passed last year, touted by supporters as protecting “parent’s rights” and dubbed by opponents as a “ Don’t Say Gay ” law.

The Missouri bill debated in a state House committee hearing would ban K-12 public school staff from teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation.

The Florida law only prohibits teaching those subjects from kindergarten through third grade, although any lessons on those topics for students of any grade are also banned if they are not age-appropriate.

“Exposure to such topics is inappropriate for children, creating confusion which may then cause doubt in their identities,” said Rep. Ann Kelley, a former teacher and the Republican sponsor of the Missouri bill. “It is not the place of the school to indoctrinate our children by exposing them to gender and sexual identity curriculums and courses.”

Kelley said her bill will need to be amended so it does not limit teaching for Advanced Placement courses.

In response to a question from a committee member, Kelley said she assumes that under her bill, educators would be banned from explaining the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage.

“It seems like the things that you want to prohibit are targeted to one particular group that you find disfavorable,” Republican Rep. Phil Christofanelli told Kelley.

Democratic Rep. Ian Mackey, a former teacher who is gay, asked Kelley if him “being gay in the classroom” and not hiding that from students would be limited under her bill.

“Did you ever inform your students on your beliefs?” Kelley asked Mackey.

“They did know I was gay,” Mackey said. “They would see my wedding ring and they would ask about it, and I would say I have a husband.”

A committee vote on the bill was not scheduled as of Wednesday afternoon.

The White House, Disney and LGBTQ advocates criticized the passage of the Florida bill last year. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said the bill was a victory for parents and would prevent “indoctrination.”

Some Florida schools have since moved library books and debated changing textbooks in response to the new law. Some teachers have worried that family pictures on their desks could get them in trouble.

A federal judge in February again dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Florida law’s constitutionality. The judge ruled that the students, parents and teachers who filed the lawsuit didn’t have legal standing.

The Missouri Senate is considering a similar bill requiring public school teachers and staff to tell parents if their children “express discomfort or confusion.”

Bessie Venters

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