The Alabama House of Representatives had already passed a bill midway through the session requiring students at K-12 schools to use the bathroom of their birth-assigned sex.
The Senate passed the same bill on Thursday, with an added surprise: Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, tacked on amendment similar to the a controversial law passed by the Florida legislature dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The Florida law prevents teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Pre-K through third grade accept where “developmentally appropriate.”
The new language in Alabama instead would block the teaching in kindergarten through fifth grade.
House Democrats, who had expressed exasperation earlier in the afternoon at the passage of a bill criminalizing the prescription of puberty blockers to transgender minors, returned to the stand to lament the further passage of another anti-LGBTQ bill.
Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, who sponsored the original bathroom bill, moved to concur with the bill, restating that it will prevent teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity.
“What does that even mean,” asked Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, the state’s only openly gay lawmaker. “Is that even being done right now? Like what are you even talking about?”
“Well if it’s not being done then this should be OK,” Stadthagen responded.
Stadthagen compared the issue to movie ratings and that this bill keeps things “rated G” for these elementary students.
“When I read it, what I thought of is like movies, right,” Stadthagen said. “We have G movies, we’ve got PG, PG13 based on certain ages of what they can handle as kids and what we want them to handle as kids.”
Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said what it boils down to is a hatred of gay people.
“Love is what love does, and this is not love, it’s hate,” Givan said. “You all hate the fact that people are gay. You hate the fact that people are transgender. You hate the fact that people categorize themselves as queer or lesbian, or bisexual or gender neutral. You hate the fact that men choose to dress as women. Well, guess what: I’ve learned to appreciate those people because they are acting or being their true selves.”
Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, asked Stadthagen whether he considered his fellow legislators as friends, to which Stadthagen replied “absolutely.”
“The reason I ask that is because I felt clearly this morning that a member of our body was hurting,” Bracy said, referring to Rafferty’s earlier remarks. “What did you feel?”
“It upset me,” Stadthagen said. “Anytime I see a colleague and a friend upset, it upsets me … I think everyone in this chamber was upset.”
“I felt like he gave a very passionate plea. And I felt like he tried to describe to us what it’s like to be him,” Bracy said. “And I think that he also showed us what it’s like to be a gay kid. And I think he also showed us what it’s like to be picked on and bullied and feel like you don’t have nowhere else to turn in. And I would just wonder if, if we truly feel like we love each other, we’re compassionate, we care about each other — why do we keep doing things to hurt each other?”
The bill had already undergone a rigorous two hours of debate when it was solely the bathroom bill in the House on a controversial packed day midway through the session. The bulk of the discussion Thursday centered on the new language, although some Democrats also reminded the body of their opposition to the original aim of the bill.
The House ultimately concurred 70 to 26 on the bill, sending it to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk to be signed into law.