Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem is staying pretty tight-lipped on a controversial proposal banning teachers from discussing “any side of a controversial issue” in classrooms.
In December, the Oro Valley lawmaker put forward House Bill 2002 after a constituent complained that a math teacher in the district had been criticizing President Donald Trump during class discussions. Finchem told the Arizona Republic the proposal is intended to ensure faculty leave their “political agenda behind… at home.”
“If you enter a classroom with a Trump T-shirt, a Hillary T-shirt, [or] a Vote No 126 T-shirt, you engage in a political speech in class,” he claimed.
The draft bill intends to solve that problem by instituting a code of ethics that all K-12 teachers in the state must follow. These rules, for instance, forbid faculty members from “[singling] out one group of students as being responsible for the suffering or inequities experienced by another group of students.”
While that proposal enumerates race as a verboten characteristic for discussion, it does not specify whether topics related to queer and trans lives are also prohibited.
Websites like LGBTQ Nation concluded HB 2002 is vague enough that teachers could, for example, be terminated for discussing the Stonewall Riots of 1969—which helped set off the modern movement for queer and trans rights. Issues like LGBTQ equality are “often deemed ‘controversial’ by Republicans,” the site concluded.
Even worse, the proposal may lead to teachers being effectively forced to give hate groups a platform in schools. Any teacher who does discuss marriage equality could be forced to present the opposing side—giving equal time to anti-LGBTQ bigotry.
“A teacher must provide students with materials supporting both sides of the controversy in a fair-minded and nonpartisan manner,” the text reads.
INTO reached out to the conservative to ask if he felt the speculation regarding its anti-equality implications was accurate. Finchem’s spokesperson, Renee Padilla, claimed he’s “unavailable for commenting, as he is, and has been out of the office.”
This publication isn’t the only outlet lacking clarification on the bill’s implications. The Hill and Arizona Daily Star were also offered no comment.
What has been reported about the legislation does not inspire confidence that HB 2002 would not be used to target vulnerable LGBTQ people. Finchem’s bullet points were lifted nearly verbatim from a “Teacher Code of Ethics” posted on the Stop K-12 Indoctrination website two years ago.
The campaign warns that “no age group and no corner of our K-12 classrooms are immune from the left’s ideological aggression.”
Stop K-12 Indoctrination is a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, whose namesake has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-black movements.”
Finchem’s own record on LGBTQ rights is concerning. Three years ago, he put forward draft legislation which would allow the state of Arizona to ignore decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, such as its ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges. He told the Arizona Daily Star that SCOTUS had no right to “force” marriage equality on states.
“If the federal government wants to issue a gay marriage license, they’re free to do that,” the representative said at the time. “But it’s not a state license.”
In 2017, Finchem also attempted to ban schools from discussing “social justice.”
The Arizona State Legislature convenes for the 2019 legislative session on Jan. 14. As with Finchem’s previous proposals, HB 2002 is not expected to go far.