'Most disrespectful bill' -- Missouri lawmakers push to ban teachers from discussing LGBTQ identity
Published in News & Features
In front of a packed Missouri Senate hearing room on Tuesday, Michael Lundgren told Missouri lawmakers that when he came out as gay, he turned to his teachers.
They supported and encouraged him to speak with his mother, who was struggling to accept him.
“My teachers are the reason my relationship with my mom is stronger than ever,” Lundgren, 22, a St. Louis County resident, told the Missouri Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee. “When I needed them most, I had teachers who listened, supported and encouraged and they helped me rebuild my relationship with the person I love most in this world.”
Lundgren urged the committee to vote against a bill that would ban teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation at any grade level, no matter the class subject.
The bill, filed by state Sen. Mike Moon, an Ash Grove Republican, goes further than Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation signed into law last year. The Florida law bans instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade. The Missouri bill does not specify a grade level.
During the hour-long hearing, supporters argued that the legislation would protect kids from having inappropriate classroom conversations with their teachers about sex. They said the bill was intended to leave those discussions to parents and mental health providers.
“I did not know what my teacher’s gender identity was, nor did I care. I was there to learn math, science, history or English,” Andy Wells, president of the Missouri chapter of No Left Turn in Education, told the committee. The national group has rallied against classroom instruction it considers too progressive. “Can we get back to basic — teaching students the subjects they’re supposed to be learning?”
But opponents of the legislation say it would prohibit LGBTQ teachers from discussing their spouses because it could indicate their sexual orientation. They say it could also ban books from being taught if they include LGBTQ characters or topics, and forbid discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in health classes.
“Should this legislation pass, thousands of families like mine across the state will seriously consider leaving the state,” said Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of PROMO, an LGBTQ advocacy group. “I think that’s exactly what this bill intends. To instill fear. To censor. To have a chilling effect.”
State Sen. Greg Razer, a Kansas City Democrat and Missouri’s only openly gay state senator, agreed and said the legislation seeks to get rid of people like himself.
“This is the most disrespectful bill I’ve ever seen in my seven years in this building,” he said.
The Senate committee adjourned Tuesday without a decision. The legislation could be brought up for a vote at a future hearing.
Tuesday’s hearing, which became tense at times, came as Missouri Republicans have proposed at least 27 anti-LGBTQ bills this session. The Show-Me state is behind only Oklahoma, which had 32 bills filed as of Feb. 7, according to a legislation tracker from the ACLU.
Separately on Tuesday, the Missouri Senate Emerging Issues Committee was holding a hearing over a bill filed by state Sen. Mike Cierpiot, a Lee’s Summit Republican, that would ban Missourians from being able to change their birth certificate if they change their sex without having surgery.
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