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Last week in LGBTQ+ rights: Court decisions and a GOP presidential debate

A Maryland judge ruled parents can’t opt kids out of inclusive lesson plans.

By Will Fritz - August 28, 2023
Ron DeSantis
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by FOX News Channel, Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

This series is a weekly roundup of LGBTQ-related news, covering various laws and bans, as well as efforts to push back against them.

Republican presidential contenders bring up ‘indoctrination,’ locker rooms

LGBTQ+ issues didn’t figure heavily into the first Republican presidential primary debate of the 2024 election cycle. But when they did come up, it was not in a particularly positive context.

While answering a question about what the moderator Bret Baier called “the crisis in education,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took the opportunity to claim brainwashing was to blame.

“The decline in education is one of the major reasons why our country is in decline,” DeSantis said. “We need education in this country, not indoctrination in this country.”

Some of the “indoctrination” DeSantis has previously lambasted publicly includes teachers letting students choose their own pronouns.

In the sole question about LGBTQ+ issues during the debate, moderator and Fox News host Martha MacCallum misgendered trans girls, asking North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum: “Gov. Haley has said that biological boys playing in girls’ sports is the women’s issue of our time. You said that even though you signed a ban on this in North Dakota, that there hadn’t been one instance where it was actually needed. Are you saying that you think that too much is made of this issue?”

In his response, Burgum said: “No, I’m saying in North Dakota we made a priority of protecting women’s sports and we’ve done that in our state. … But I do think when we start talking about education and we think that we’re going to have a federal government one-size-fits-all, we’re just completely losing track of the fact that education differs by states. … The idea that every school district in the state and every teacher is somehow indoctrinating people is just false.”

MacCallum then turned to Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, who doubled down on previous statements she’d made criticizing trans girls and women playing girls’ and women’s sports.

“I will always say I’m going to fight for girls all day long because strong girls become strong women,” she said. “Strong women become strong leaders, and biological boys don’t belong in the locker rooms of any of our girls.”

Maryland parents can’t opt their children out of inclusive curriculum, judge rules

A group of Maryland parents suing their local school system may not opt their children out of reading stories that include LGBTQ+ characters, a federal judge ruled Aug. 24.

Judge Deborah Boardman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland denied the request of a group of three families for a preliminary injunction that would have forced Montgomery County Public Schools to give parents the option to pull their kids from classes with curriculums they disagree with.

Montgomery County Public Schools, the largest school system in Maryland, added books featuring LGBTQ+ characters to its elementary school-age curriculum in October 2022, according to the parents’ lawsuit against the district. While the district initially said it would allow parents to opt their children out of reading the books, the Montgomery County school board and superintendent announced in March 2023 that opting out was not allowed.

The three families sued Montgomery County Public Schools two months later, claiming the district’s policy violated their and their children’s constitutional rights. The plaintiffs demanded the school system provide advance notice about LGBTQ+-themed materials and allow them to opt out. They also sought an injunction against the school system while their case played out in court.

In her opinion, Boardman wrote the plaintiffs failed to establish the requirements for a preliminary injunction.

Boardman’s ruling on the injunction does not affect the lawsuit’s final outcome. Nonprofit news outlet Maryland Matters reported that the plaintiffs plan to appeal Boardman’s decision.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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