When Indiana students return to class this fall, they will need special permission to take sex education. And thanks to an extremist anti-gay hate group in the state, that may be harder to get.
Indiana has adopted a law that mandates parents must give signed consent before kids take sex ed classes. Under the old rule, students were enrolled unless parents opted out. Progressive groups have roundly criticized the Public Law 154 as disastrous for youth development.
“Young people deserve sex education that is affirming, non-biased, and non-judgmental – and that includes the information and skills they need to protect their health and plan their future,” said Sonya Norsworthy, interim vice president of education for Planned Parenthood, in a statement to INTO. “The fact is that a majority of parents in the U.S. support sex education in middle schools and high schools.”
But Liberty Counsel, which has made a career of denigrating LGBTQ people and promoting discrimination, is trying to capitalize on the law to write queer identity out of schools.
A five-page letter addressed to Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick introduces Liberty Counsel as “a non-profit litigation, education, and public policy organization.” It does not mention that Liberty Counsel is a designated hate group. Liberty Counsel also published its own lengthy “Parental Non-Consent” forms for good measure, citing itself as the appropriate legal resource to report violations.
In materials sent to officials, the group claims it is a violation of Public Law 154 to even present students with information that mentions LGBTQ identity or groups that support LGBTQ people such as GLSEN, Advocates for Youth and Planned Parenthood.
In fact, Public Law 154 forces schools to get parental consent before teaching “on human sexuality.”
It’s what GLSEN Executive Direct Eliza Byard calls a “Back to the Future moment,” as anti-LGBTQ activists try to press old misconceptions into policy.
“The fact is that from our founding and from the moment that LGBT people began to become visible in our society, there’s been an effort to silence us and make us invisible by saying that any discussion of our existence is by its nature sexual,” Byard said. “Our existence is no more a sexual issue than the existence of heterosexual people.”
David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center said Liberty Counsel was aiming to send Indiana back to the Dark Ages.
“Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT hate group, has launched a campaign of threats designed to scare Indiana public schools into abandoning their efforts to provide accurate information about health, sexuality, and identity to their students, and to convince parents that any such information reflects ‘radical ideologies,'” said Dinielli in a statement to INTO.
At the end of the day, however, it’s students, especially LGBTQ students, who will suffer, said Advocates for Youth President Debra Hauser. The group, which promotes sex education for youth, is among those targeted by Liberty Counsel. Hauser doesn’t know why her group is in the crosshairs.
“We’re also not sure why Liberty Counsel wants to deprive young people of information that could help save their lives and protect their futures, or why they feel the need to stigmatize young LGBTQ people and make our world even less safe for them,” she said, in a statement.
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