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Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law inspires bill in Ohio


Two Republican lawmakers in the state of Ohio have introduced a bill that in many ways mirrors Florida’s controversial law that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.

House Bill 616 would prohibit the teaching or provision of “any curriculum or instructional material about sexual orientation or gender identity” to students in kindergarten through third grade, using language similar to that of Florida.

The bill also goes further than the law recently passed in Florida, prohibiting Ohio public school educators in grades 4 through 12 from teaching or using “educational materials about sexual orientation or gender identity in a way that is not age or developmentally appropriate. students in accordance with state standards. The wording of the bill does not specify what “age-appropriate” or “developmentally-appropriate” material might qualify.

The proposed legislation positions Ohio to potentially join a number of Republican-led states that are imposing legislation that many opponents say is potentially harmful to LGBTQ children and young adults.

One of the bill’s sponsors, State Representative Mike Loychik, tweeted Tuesday, that “gender identity and sexuality curriculum has no place in K-3 grades, period. That’s why I just introduced a bill to outlaw sexuality and gender identity studies through 3rd grade in Ohio.

The bill would also ban curricula for all grades that might teach, promote or endorse what it calls “divisive or inherently racist concepts.” This would prohibit any textbooks, teaching materials or academic programs that “promote” concepts such as critical race theory, intersectional theory, the 1619 project, diversity, equity and inclusion, inherited racial guilt, or “any other concept that the state school board defines as divisive or inherently racist.

Under the bill, members of the public could file complaints against school employees to allege violations of the law. An accused educator would be entitled to a hearing on the allegations, but can be disciplined if found in violation of the law and school districts can lose state funding as a result.

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro told CNN on Tuesday that the bill’s broad language could significantly impede educators’ approach to certain topics, out of fear for their jobs.

“I think it’s probably on purpose, that they just want to instill fear, that if you’re wondering whether or not something can be considered controversial or considered divisive or considered illegal under this legislation , the safest bet is not to tell everyone about it. And that’s the real harm that’s being done because it robs our students of a full and honest education,” DiMauro said.

DiMauro said the union is against the proposed measure and will actively work against it if it gains traction in the state legislature.

LGBT groups and Democrats have strongly criticized the proposed bill.

“Ohio’s Don’t Say Gay bill is yet another insidious attempt to chill and censor free speech in the classroom. Lawmakers are effectively trying to erase LGBTQ+ people and skew history in their favor,” said Equality Ohio Executive Director Alana Jochum.

“Attacks like these are the product of a small minority of people pushing their agenda to dismantle diversity at all costs – and in the process putting educators and families at risk for political gain. Equality Ohio vehemently opposes House Bill 616, and we will work tirelessly to keep it from finding its way into our classrooms.

Asked about the bill on Tuesday, Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo condemned the bill as “disgusting” legislation.

“Well, I think it’s a disgusting bill, it legitimizes bigotry and I think every time we see bills introduced, it speaks to me about the extremism that continues to plague this house of state and we cannot continue to grow as a state economically, do good for our Ohio families if we do not embrace our diversity and ensure this state is inclusive for all Ohioans. ‘Ohio,” Russo said.

The bill did not appear to have any action scheduled for Tuesday night, according to the state’s legislative website.

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