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In unprecedented move, Louisiana's 'Don't Say Gay' bill resurrected after failing in committee

Aubry Procell
/
WRKF

In an unusual move, the Louisiana House voted Tuesday to revive a controversial bill that would ban public school teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.

The Florida-style “Don’t Say Gay” bill was rejected by the House education committee last week in a bipartisan 7-4 vote, and many assumed it was dead for the legislative session.

But on Tuesday, Rep. Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City) motioned to advance the bill to be considered by what’s called “Committee of the Whole,” and House lawmakers voted 55-39 to override the committee’s decision.

Since Louisiana’s constitution requires that legislation receive committee approval, the full House will hold its own committee hearing, a rare occurrence in which lawmakers are allowed to call outside speakers to testify.

Lawmakers mostly voted along party lines, with Democrats like state Rep. Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport) objecting to the motion.

“It would be unprecedented to use the committee of the whole for this purpose,” said Jenkins, also the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “If that’s the case, then every bill that fails in a committee could be brought to the floor. For that reason, I would object to this bill being discharged.”

But Rep. Blake Miguez (R-Erath) said “protecting” children from discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity warranted the unusual move.

“In certain cases when you break precedent is when you have important bills like this that you can bring this motion,” Miguez said. “It’s perfectly within the rules.”

Several Republicans voted against discharging the bill: Barbara Freiberg (R-Baton Rouge), Stephanie Hilferty (R-New Orleans), Richard Nelson (R-Mandeville), Scott McKnight (R-Baton Rouge), Joe Stagni (R-Kenner) and most notably Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee (R-Houma). All three of the House’s independent representatives also voted against discharging the bill.

The bill, written by Dodie Horton (R-Haughton), limits, and in some grades prohibits, the discussion of sex and gender in classrooms and explicitly bans teachers from discussing their own sexual orientation or gender identity with students.

Opponents argue the bill’s purpose is to silence LGBTQ teachers. When the bill was heard in committee, most speakers focused on the potentially devastating impact the legislation could have by alienating and possibly isolating students who identify as LGBTQ.

At the time the bill was initially killed, some committee members challenged the bill’s implicit double standard, while others said the issue would be better addressed by local school boards directly.

SarahJane Guidry, with the Forum for Equality, called Tuesday’s vote an “absurd” attempt to “censor and control students and teachers.”

“Moving this bill forward at the expense of LGBTQ+ students’ well-being is a shameful political trick,” Guidry said in a statement, adding that it’s time for elected officials to halt the bill “once and for all.”

The bill is not yet scheduled for consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Digital editor Katelyn Umholtz contributed to this article.

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