House Republicans introduce national 'Don't Say Gay' bill

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House Republicans' Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022 would ban school discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity for children under 10.

Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana and 32 House GOP co-sponsors on Oct. 18 introduced a bill that, according to its text, would "prohibit the use of Federal funds to develop, implement, facilitate, or fund any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10."

The Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022, reminiscent of a similar "Don't Say Gay" law enacted in Florida in March, defines "sexually-oriented material" as "any depiction, description, or simulation of sexual activity, any lewd or lascivious depiction or description of human genitals, or any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects."

The text of the bill lists what its authors apparently feel are factors requiring its enactment, including "newly implemented sexual education curriculums [that] encourage discussions of sexuality, sexual orientation, transgenderism, and gender ideology as early as kindergarten"; federally funded purchases of "sexually-oriented literature and materials that target preadolescent children and teach them about concepts like masturbation, pornography, sexual acts, and gender transition"; and "Private organizations, State government agencies, and local government agencies [making] use of Federal grants to host and promote sexually oriented events like drag queen story hours and burlesque shows."

"The Democrat Party and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology," Johnson said in a news release. "This commonsense bill is straightforward. 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."

Florida's Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits materials or lessons about sexual orientation or gender identity for children through the third grade, has caused confusion and anger in the state, with LGBTQ rights advocates decrying it as discriminatory and teachers unsure what constitutes a violation of the law.

While Florida's law applies to children in the third grade, typically ages 8 and 9, and younger, the Republican House members' bill sets the limit higher, at 10 years old.

The co-sponsors of Johnson's bill include Republicans who have targeted the LGBTQ community before, such as Bob Good of Virginia, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who also co-sponsored the Protect Children's Innocence Act, introduced in August, that would make it a felony for doctors to provide gender-affirming care to transgender minors.

The newly introduced House bill is the latest of many anti-LGBTQ bills that GOP lawmakers have introduced across the country in the past few years.

Republicans have tried to pass so-called "bathroom bills," which would ban transgender individuals from using bathrooms for people of their gender identity.

They have introduced "Don't Say Gay" bills in more than a dozen states, leaving LGBTQ teachers worried that merely talking about their families could put them afoul of the laws, according to NPR.

GOP-controlled states have also passed laws banning transgender students from sports teams for students of their gender identity.

Arkansas and Texas have tried to ban parents and doctors from providing gender-affirming care to their children. The Arkansas law is currently being challenged in federal court.

Republicans continue to introduce anti-LGBTQ laws and spend millions on campaign advertising attacking transgender people to encourage turnout by their voting base in the midterm elections. "Voters overall are nowhere near Democrats on this and the hard woke left. There's a biological difference between men and women," Curt Anderson, a Republican political consultant, told NBC News. "Once in a while, you find an issue that is your opponent’s Achilles' heel, where they’re way over their skis. Democrats are stuck on this, because if they step out of line, they get smacked as transphobic."

While a 2021 YouGov poll showed that voters are about equally split on whether people should be able to legally identify as a gender different than the one assigned at birth, 40% saying yes and 38% saying no, the vast majority of Republican voters say they should not.

With Democrats in control of Congress, the federal "Don't Say Gay" bill won't come up for a vote. However, the bill's co-sponsors say that they will push it in the next Congress if Republicans win control of the House in November.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.