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‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill introduced in Utah Legislature

Seven days before the end of the Legislative session, a bill similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law was introduced by Rep. Jeffrey D. Stenquist, R-Draper.

The bill bans “classroom instruction or classroom discussion” on “sexuality, including sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade.

The short bill reads:

Each LEA and each school shall ensure that classroom instruction or classroom discussion that an educator or other adult leads on sexuality, including sexual orientation or gender identity, as those terms are defined in Section 34A-5-102, does not occur:
(1) in kindergarten through grade 3; or
(2) in a manner that is not age or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

https://le.utah.gov/~2023/bills/static/HB0550.html

Florida’s law reads, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Similar bills have been introduced to state legislatures across the country.

U.S. President Joe Biden called Forida’s law “hateful.”

“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve,” Biden said in a tweet.

Since Florida passed the law, teachers have expressed confusion and frustration with the ban, and school libraries have been swept of all books for fear of being sued for discrimination be only removing LGBTQ-related books.

Stenquist rejected the characterization of his bill as a “don’t say gay” bill.

“What it really is, is about just saying, let’s have age-appropriate discussions in the classroom. These discussions are sensitive, and really, parents need to be aware and understand what’s being discussed around these topics with their children,” Stenquist told the Deseret News, saying he drafted the bill for a constituent who complained their child’s teacher “was introducing a few topics of discussion in the classroom that she felt were a little inappropriate.”

“So I looked into it to see, ‘What do we have as far as guidelines for teachers and schools that can put some parameters around that?’ and really found that we don’t have anything around classroom discussions and instruction,” Stenquist told the Deseret News. “And so I was happy to open the bill and say, ‘Let’s have this conversation about what might be appropriate.'”

Though the wording is nearly word-for-word as the Florida law, Stenquist says he wasn’t trying to model it after it.

“Equality Utah is very dismayed to see a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill introduced in Utah, especially when the Utah Legislature enacted legislation repealing similar language from Utah code in 2017,” Equality Utah said in a statement. “This bill is damaging and stigmatizing to LGBTQ children and their families, and we will oppose it vigorously.”

Equality Utah leaders also said this is a bill that is going down the same path as other bills that the legislature has shied from.

Monday, Feb. 27, is the last day a bill can be first heard by a legislative committee, meaning the bill is unlikely to make it to the floor of either chamber unless it is pushed through by leadership or considered under suspension of the rules. Similar controversial bills have done so successfully in other legislative years.

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