Texas schools would be forced to out LGBTQ+ kids under Don’t Say Gay copycat bill

Jared Patterson smiling

In Texas, a ‘Don’t Say Gay’-style bill has been introduced by a Republican state lawmaker.

The bill, by representative Jared Patterson, would restrict instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools for students from kindergarten through to eighth grade, or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate”.

The Florida law that came into force last July uses similar language, restricting LGBTQ+ discussions entirely from classes up to third grade, as well as those deemed ‘inappropriate’ from classes thereafter.

Patterson’s Texas bill would also require schools to disclose information and “changes” about a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being – which could ultimately force children to be outed about their sexuality or gender identity against their will.

Part of the process would mean schools cannot have procedures that “encourages or has the effect of encouraging a student to withhold” such information from their parent.

It would also alert parents to any health-related services provided to their child, including mental health support.

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Calling the bill an “improved” version of Florida’s law, Patterson said the legislation would “protect the youngest and most vulnerable children from unscientific, inaccurate and inappropriate information”.

“The sexualization of our children must stop,” he said. “The message is no more radical ideology in the classroom – particularly when it comes to inappropriate or obscene content.”

The statement also lauded Patterson’s “critical role” in getting pro-firearm and anti-abortion legislation passed.

Wrongly linking LGBTQ+ people to the “sexualisation” or “grooming” of children has become a common right-wing refrain, especially in the wake of Florida’s law.

The Center for Centering Digital Hate has said such lies drive hate crimes.

As Lambda Legal staff attorney Kell Olson said when challenging Florida’s law, such laws work against, and are largely rooted in being anti-LGBTQ+ people.

Olson said Florida’s law “suppresses” the speech and identities of LGBTQ+ students and “sends a message of shame and stigma”.

If the bill is enacted into law, it would take affect from 1 September, 2023 – the start of the next US school year.

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law in Florida was passed into law in March 2022 by state governor Ron DeSantis.

At the time, DeSantis said those who oppose the bill “support injecting woke gender ideology into second-grade classrooms”, “support sexualising kids in kindergarten”, and “support enabling schools to transition students to a different gender without the knowledge of the parent, much less without the parent’s consent”.

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