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Missouri Republicans Consider “Don’t Say Gay” Bill That’s Worse Than Florida’s

The bill forbids teachers and staff members from discussing LGBTQ topics with students in grades K-12.

A Republican-sponsored bill in the Missouri state legislature would forbid teachers, administrators and staff from discussing LGBTQ topics in schools, enforcing restrictions that go far beyond the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida.

Senate Bill 134, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Moon (R), bars any discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools and forbids LGBTQ students from discussing problems at home or with peers with trusted teachers. The bill, which received a committee hearing on Tuesday, would only allow students to confide in licensed mental health providers employed by schools — and only with permission from a parent or guardian, a requirement that could put LGBTQ students at risk if their family is intolerant of who they are. Notably, many districts in the state don’t employ mental health professionals.

The proposal goes further than Florida’s anti-LGBTQ law, which bars any discussion of LGBTQ topics in grades K-3 but does allow for limited discussions in older grades (though such conversations must be “age-appropriate,” according to the law, a vague requirement that may dissuade teachers from having such discussions at all).

“The bill follows the lead of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill but does so with broader impact and implications than any bill being considered in the nation,” said Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of the LGBTQ state advocacy group PROMO.

The text of Moon’s bill specifically forbids the “discuss[ing of] gender identity or sexual orientation with a minor student” by a school staff member or teacher. The bill also includes anti-trans language, deriding the concept of “gender identity” as a “preconceived notion,” ignoring the scientific consensus on the matter.

“It’s a book ban, a curriculum ban and it encourages an environment of bullying,” Shira Berkowitz, the senior director of public policy and advocacy for PROMO, said to Riverfront Times.

“I think the end result is to erase the presence of LGBTQ+ Missourians,” Berkowitz added.

Even if the bill doesn’t pass, its submission could still cause harm to LGBTQ youth across the state. One study from 2021 noted a significant increase in the number of calls to crisis phone lines in states where anti-LGBTQ legislation had been proposed, indicating that children’s mental health is negatively impacted by attacks from bigoted lawmakers.

“As policymakers consider introducing legislation that limits access to or participation in services and opportunities for LGBTQ people, they must also consider the potential detrimental impacts of such policy debates on the well-being of LGBTQ youth,” the study’s authors advised.

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