BATON ROUGE, La. — Legislation forbidding teachers from discussing their gender identity or sexual orientation in Louisiana public schools was rejected Tuesday in a state House committee in Baton Rouge.
Rep. Dodie Horton's bill would have prohibited a teacher or school employee from discussing “his own sexual orientation of gender identity with students in kindergarten through grade twelve.” It also said the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity could not be covered in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The House Education Committee voted the bill down 7-4 after more than two hours of testimony and debate during a livestreamed meeting at the Capitol.
Opponents dubbed the bill “Don't Say Gay” legislation. Horton, a Haughton Republican, rejected the label, saying the legislation was meant to make sure teachers stay on topic in classrooms while avoiding topics that should be taught at home.
Several gay and transgender witnesses were among opponents, arguing that the bill was an attempt to marginalize LGBTQ people and that it could discourage teachers from stopping bullying of LGBTQ students. Some said teachers have given them needed support and the bill would preclude that.
Also in opposition was Belinda Davis, an associate professor of political science at LSU and a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She said the bill could prohibit discussion of gay historical figures or matters involving the history of women's property rights.
Horton rejected those arguments, saying the bill would not supersede state curriculum standards.
Opponents on the committee said the bill was written too broadly and could be seen as outlawing even casual references to gender. Rep. Patrick Jefferson, a Homer Democrat, questioned whether it would prohibit the use of gender specific titles such as “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
Rep. Barbara Freiberg, a Baton Rouge Republican, said the measure dealt with issues best left to local education officials.