Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law Inspires Proposed Ohio Legislation

(CNN) Two Republican lawmakers in Ohio have introduced a bill that in many ways reflects Florida’s controversial law that critics have called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.

House Bill 616 would prohibit the teaching or delivery of “any curriculum or instructional material on sexual orientation or gender identity” to kindergarten students up to and including third grade, using languages ​​similar to Florida’s provision.

The bill also goes a step further than the recently enacted Florida Act, prohibiting teachers in Ohio from public schools in grades 4 to 12 from teaching or using “instructional materials about sexual orientation or gender identity in any way that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students. in accordance with state standards. ” The language of the draft bill does not specify which “age-appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate” material may qualify.

The proposed legislation positions Ohio to potentially join a number of Republican-led states that are pushing 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 on Tuesday that “the curriculum on gender identity and sexuality has no place in the K-3 classroom, period. That’s why I just introduced a bill to ban the curriculum on sexuality and gender identity to 3rd grade in Ohio. “

The bill would also ban curricula for all grades that can teach, promote or support what it calls “divisive or inherent racist concepts.” It would prohibit any textbook, instructional, or academic curriculum that “promotes” concepts, including critical racial theory, intersectional theory, The 1619 Project, learning outcomes for diversity, justice, and inclusion, inherited racial guilt, or any other concept that the state education board defines as divisive or inherent. racist. “

Members of the public will be able to file complaints against school employees for alleging violations of the law, according to the bill. An accused teacher will have the right to a hearing on the allegations, but may be disciplined if they are found to be in violation of the law and school districts may lose state funding as a result.

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

“I think it’s probably by design that they just want to create fear, that if you’re wondering if something can or can not be considered controversial or considered divisive or considered illegal under this legislation, the safest option is to just not talk “And it’s the real damage that is caused because it deprives our students of a complete and honest education,” said DiMauro.

DiMauro said that the union is against the proposed measure and will actively work against it if it gets steam in the state legislature.

LGBT groups and Democrats strongly criticized the proposed bill.

“Ohio’s Don’t Say Gay Act is another insidious attempt to cool down and censor free speech in the classroom. Lawmakers are effectively trying to erase LGBTQ + people and distort history in their favor,” said Equality Ohio CEO Alana Jochum.

“Attacks like these are a product of a small minority of people pushing their agendas to dismantle diversity at all costs – and in the process, teachers and families are at risk of political gain. Equality Ohio vehemently opposes House Bill 616, and we will work tirelessly to stop it from entering our classrooms. “

Asked about the bill Tuesday, Ohio House minority leader Allison Russo condemned the bill as “disgusting” legislation.

“Well, my thoughts are that it’s a disgusting bill, it legitimizes bigotry and I think that every time we see legislation introduced, it speaks for me to the extremism that continues to flourish in this State House, and that we can not continue to grow as “a state economically., do justice to our Ohio families if we do not embrace our diversity and ensure that this state is inclusive for all Ohio ancestors,” Russo said.

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