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Education Committee passes HB 1608 aimed at restricting LGBTQ topics in school

HB 1608 is drawing comparisons to Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill, passes 9-4 from education committee
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Posted at 8:00 AM, Feb 21, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A bill being compared to the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill was heard in the Indiana House Education Committee. And after two amendments, the bill passed the committee 9-4.

House Bill 1608 is aimed to ban schools and third-party vendors from instruction for students from K-3 on sexual orientation, gender roles, identity and expression.

More than 100 LGBTQ advocates visited the statehouse to oppose the bill. Tensions were high inside and outside the chamber.

"The law has long held that a child's parents get to choose how their child will be raised. This includes their religion, their values and their beliefs — but there is a dominant force in our society that disregards this right and believes that our children should be taught concepts in the public school that should be left to their parents," Jennifer Wilson Reagan, a parent, said.

Rep. Michelle Davis amended the bill to change language from banning topics of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to encompass "human sexuality."

Rep. Jake Teshka proposed an amendment mandating the bill include language that requires parental consent if a student asks a schoolteacher or administrator to change their name or pronouns.

Both amendments and the overall bill passed along party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

"Amendments or not, this bill creates a culture around shaming and silencing conversations around the LGBTQ plus community and it takes away yet another safe space for us to be," parent Ashley Holmes said.

The bill was authored by Republican Rep. Michelle Davis, who represents Whiteland.

The bill now heads to the full House for consideration. If the bill doesn't make it to the Senate by Feb. 27, it dies.

"A teacher should never be forced to abandon their beliefs about the meaning of male or female just to keep their jobs," Matt Sharp with the Alliance Defending Freedom said.

The ACLU of Indiana and many other groups rallied in opposition of the bill during and before the hearing.

Following the vote, the ACLU released the following statement:

“Hoosiers see this bill for what it really is, a blatant attack on LGBTQ families in Indiana. Our schools should protect all students—including LGBTQ students—so they can learn and thrive in a safe environment.”

“The Indiana House Education Committee just passed HB 1608, a horrific “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This bill would censor discussion about LGBTQ people in schools and target students who choose not to conform to traditional norms about gender by forcing teachers and administrators to act as ‘gender police,’ outing transgender students without their consent, potentially putting them in danger at school and at home. This bill sends a dangerous message to already vulnerable youth, especially trans youth, that they and their stories are worth less than their peers.

“The bill author, Representative Michelle Davis, is pushing this bill as a ‘parental rights’ bill, but Rep. Davis authored another bill that would take away parents’ rights to make decisions about essential medical care for their trans kids. This is not about parental rights.

“This is also not about teaching sex-ed. If it were, HB 1608 would explicitly name sex education. Instead, Indiana legislators are using a broad, undefined term, 'human sexuality,' to ultimately erase conversations about LGBTQ Hoosiers.
ACLU of Indiana Advocacy and Public Policy Director Katie Blair