Republican lawmakers in Indiana have said that a proposal to restrict discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools will be drafted in the new year. The shape of the proposal will reportedly be modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The news comes out of a legislative conference that took place on Friday, December 16. Rep. Bob Behning, chair of the House education committee, gave a preview of his educational priorities for the coming General Assembly meeting in January.
Were those priorities focused on addressing low teacher salaries, public school funding or improvements to reading levels? In other words, real problems that affect the nation’s schools? No. According to The Indy Star, Behning said that a colleague was planning to file a proposal “similar to what Florida did in regards to sexual orientation.”
Behning went on to say that he does not know whether the bill will be handled by his committee or whether he would support it. He did add, however, that he supports the general concept of “parental rights” in education—a phrase that mirrors the language Florida has adopted to permit conservative parents to shape the curriculum for the entire school.
“Let’s teach kids the basics and not try to get beyond that in terms of what are parental responsibilities versus what are responsibilities of the school,” he concluded.
Chris Paulsen, CEO of LGBTQ+ nonprofit Indiana Youth Group, called the legislation a “gut punch.” Paulsen explained that to even entertain such a bill would cause harm to the LGBTQ+ community in Indiana. “The damage even having the bill introduced will cause to young people is immeasurable,” she said.
“We will see youth die by suicide because of this. I think it’s that dire and I’m sad that lawmakers don’t realize their actions have really bad consequences, even if the bill doesn’t pass.” Paulsen explained that their organization has experienced this first hand, with the group serving over 400 destabilized LGBTQ+ youth in need of food and shelter in the last year.
Sen. JD Ford, an Indianapolis Democrat and Indiana’s first openly gay legislator, appealed to the assembly’s common sense, suggesting they should use their office to actually address the needs of the state. “We have so many more priorities in our state to deal with,” he said, “I don’t think that rises to the level of importance.”