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GOP Lawmaker’s Federal “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Is More Restrictive Than Florida’s

“This is their end game,” one critic of the GOP bill said, “to censor and ban LGBTQ from all public life.”

Rep. Mike Johnson holds up a news article during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on June 17, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

Republican Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson has introduced legislation to effectively bar federal funding from institutions across the U.S. that recognize the existence of gender identity or sexual orientation.

The bill, officially titled the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act,” is being dubbed as a federal version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, legislation that severely restricts the discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools throughout the state. Several critics have noted, however, that Johnson’s proposal is even more restrictive than the Florida law — if passed, it would forbid such subjects not only in schools, but also in libraries, hospitals, military bases and other institutions.

The bill doesn’t have a strong chance of passing at this time — Democrats, who are opposed to such measures, control both houses of Congress and the presidency. But the legislation is indicative of what Republicans could try to pass into law should they win the 2022 midterms and the White House in 2024.

Johnson’s bill would, among other items, restrict entities that receive federal funding from discussing with children “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects.”

In a statement regarding the legislation, Johnson lied about indoctrination and perversion of youth, arguments that have become common among far right lawmakers and commentators in recent months, to justify why his bill should be passed.

“The Democrat Party [sic] and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology,” Johnson said. “No federal tax dollars should go to any federal, state, or local government agencies, or private organizations that intentionally expose children under 10 years of age to sexually explicit material.”

The legislation would allow parents to file lawsuits against any entity that receives federal funding and is in violation of the bill’s language.

“Universities, public schools, hospitals, medical clinics, etc. could all be defunded if they host any event discussing LGBTQ people and children could be present,” tweeted Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School. “The way they define ‘sexually oriented material’ simply includes anything about LGBTQ people.”

“This is the American version of Russia’s gay propaganda law passed in 2013. This is their end game,” Caraballo added, referring to Republicans. “To censor and ban LGBTQ from all public life and force them back into the closet.”

Restricting federal funds from programs that discuss LGBTQ issues would reduce children’s ability to see aspects of themselves represented in institutions that receive federal funds. Indeed, with around 1 in 10 children identifying as gay or bisexual in the U.S., kids involved in federally-funded programs who may have questions about themselves could feel stigmatized after being told by adults that they cannot discuss those matters, for fear of facing litigation.

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