by Delphine Luneau •
House Leaders Prioritize Politics Over Parents, While Continuing To Ignore Urgent Issues Threatening Children, Including the Gun Violence Epidemic in Schools, Shortages of Qualified Teachers, and Rampant Inequality Affecting Youth
WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned H.R. 5 — legislation that passed the U.S. House today – that aims to deny millions of parents the right to make decisions that are best for their children, and putting a straitjacket on teachers by continuing the trend of curriculum censorship seen in harmful, unnecessary bills passed in state legislatures recently. The bill — which picks and chooses which families have rights and which don’t — has occupied the chamber’s time while extremist House leaders continue neglecting the very real and urgent problems facing our schools, such as gun violence, teacher shortages and educational inequality.
The resolution also contains a provision that risks outing marginalized transgender and nonbinary youths to potentially unsupportive parents. This would endanger students instead of fulfilling school officials’ obligation to make judgments on a case-by-case basis in the best interests of the students under their supervision.
In response to the vote, David Stacy, Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director, released the following statement:
“The backers of this bill claim to be advancing it on behalf of parents, but when you actually listen to what parents want, it’s clear that that’s not what they’re doing at all. This is purely about politics. All this bill would do is hamstring local school officials, teachers and parents from making important decisions about what’s right for their students.
“These efforts to censor curriculum and force the outing of transgender and nonbinary students are borrowing from a discriminatory wave of bills sweeping the country — a wave of bills, incidentally, that the majority of voters have not asked for and do not support. We expect that Senate leadership will choose to focus on the real issues confronting our students and our schools rather than taking up this empty, time-wasting piece of legislation.”
The vote on H.R. 5 comes ahead of expected consideration in the coming weeks of H.R. 734, a bill to ban participation by transgender youth in school sports, highlighting the determination of the anti-equality majority in the House to attack a marginalized population rather than solving the actual problems facing the country.
Polling released by HRC in November, following the midterm election, showed that attacking transgender people was ineffective in terms of motivating voters. In the survey, HRC asked voters which specific issues motivated them to vote in 2022. Inflation (52 percent) and abortion (29 percent) ranked first and second on the list. Less than 5 percent identified gender affirming care for transgender youth or transgender participation in sports as issues motivating them to vote, last on this list.
Curriculum Censorship Bills Aim to Erase LGBTQ+ Identities
Anti-LGBTQ+ legislators are targeting LGBTQ+ youth by attempting to silence, erase, and isolate them through curriculum censorship, book bans, and other divisive tactics. But poll after poll indicates that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to these efforts to punish and target LGBTQ+ youth. In 2020, eight of the 10 books that received the most challenges to use in libraries and schools were based on LGBTQ+ subjects or narratives, according to the American Library Association’s annual ranking of books that were banned or protested in schools and public libraries.
By a 60-point margin, Americans oppose banning books in public schools. When described as “a growing push to remove certain books from schools across the country, including the graphic novel Maus about the Holocaust, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, and 1984,” more than three in four Americans oppose the banning of books in public schools (16 percent support – 76 percent oppose). Opposition is strong across partisanship, with opposition from almost four in five Republicans (78 percent) and about three in four Democrats and Independents (74 and 76 percent, respectively). [Navigator poll, 2/17-22]
Curriculum censorship policies aim to prevent the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues or people in education settings. This means teachers would be prevented from providing a safe, inclusive classroom for all students. Laws like those in Florida blocks teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, further stigmatizing LGBTQ+ people and isolating LGBTQ+ kids. It also undermines existing protections for LGBTQ+ students. Other laws like those in Alabama bans any acknowledgement of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms from kindergarten through fifth grade.
LGBTQ+ kids already face real threats and obstacles. 86% of LGBTQ+ youth report they have been targets of bullying, harassment or assault at school. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ youth contribute to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement. A recent Trevor Project survey showed that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by the current wave of legislative attacks. “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” and “Stop WOKE” are vile examples of state-sponsored discrimination, bullying and harassment. Studies clearly demonstrate the harms for LGBTQ+ youth mental health when they are denied affirming and protective school environments.
Poll after poll indicates that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to these efforts to punish and target LGBTQ+ youth via curriculum censorship. Seventy-one percent of likely voters – including 66 percent of Independents and 64 percent of Republicans – believe that local school boards should not have the authority to ban books from school curriculums [Data for Progress poll, 2/11-13]. Based on National Parents Union’s national polling and meetings with parents all over the country, Keri Rodrigues, co-founder and president of the organization, says restricting how teachers can talk about race or gender "is really at the bottom of the list" of parental priorities. [National Parents Union]
Voters rejected attacks on school curriculums in the 2022 midterm elections. The 2022 midterms showed that attacks on school curriculums — specifically on critical race theory and so-called gender ideology — largely were a dud in the general election. According to an HRC post-election poll, less than 5% of voters identified gender affirming care for trans youth or trans participation in sports as issues motivating them to vote, the last on the list. Anti-LGBTQ+ groups like American First Legal and American Principles Project — led by people like Stephen Miller, known as the architect behind some of Trump’s most xenophobic and anti-immigration policies — poured tens of millions of dollars into advertising and mailers across the country, in support of candidates in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas; those investments fell flat, as nearly all of their supported candidates lost their bids for elected office, including people like Tudor Dixon, who pushed anti-trans rhetoric in the days before pro-equality Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clinched reelection victory.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
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