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Opponents speak out in public hearing on expansion of “Don’t Say Gay” law

Several speakers testified about the dangers of outing, suicidality in the LGBTQ+ community, and the legislation in general.

A public hearing on a bill that would expand Alabama’s “Don’t Say Gay” law was held on Wednesday during the House Education Policy committee meeting.  Patrick Darrington
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A public hearing on a bill that would expand Alabama’s “Don’t Say Gay” law was held on Wednesday during the House Education Policy committee meeting. 

HB354, sponsored by Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, would expand the prohibition on discussions of gender identity or sexual orientation in public K-12 schools from fifth grade to eighth grade. The bill would also require teachers to tell parents if there are any “physical, mental, or emotional changes” in a student or essentially “out” their LGBTQ+ students to parents. 

During the public hearing, which only included opponents of the bill, several individuals spoke about the dangers of outing, the legislation in general, and how the legislation contributes to the oppression of LGBTQ+ people. 

James Miller, a teacher and counselor for 31 years, said that he has had children tell him that children are being mentally or physically abused by their parents. Miller then said that under the legislation, he would be forced to then tell the abusive parent what the child said because they’re suffering a change in their mental or physical health. 

“I’ve had children come up to me and tell me during my career, that they suffer physical and emotional abuse from parents and caregivers,” Miller said. “Okay, that’s a change in mental health. So, Megan’s Law says, I have anonymity if I have to call and report this but this bill says, I got to call and tell the parent that their child was coming to me, telling me that they’re being abused. Do you see a conflict there? That’s going to be huge, huge problem.”

Miller added that outing specifically LGBTQ+ children to parents can lead to homelessness for some children or other dangerous scenarios. Miller, a trans man, said he knows because his parents would have put him out of the house if he was outed as a kid.

In 2000, a federal court ruled in Sterling v. Borough of Minersville that the Constitution of the United States protects a person’s sexual orientation from forced disclosure. 

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Cecil Pinkston, a graduating high school senior, said they were lucky to have a supportive family when they came out but not everyone can be that lucky.

Audrey Price spoke about the suicide rates of queer children and how the legislation could contribute to those deadly statistics. 

“Queer children’s suicide rates are some of the highest among any demographic, with Black queer youth being at the highest risk,” Price said. “Forty-five percent of queer children have seriously considered suicide in the past year alone and queer youth are four times more likely to attempt than their straight counterparts.”

Butler said the reason for the bill was to further prevent the “indoctrination” of students. 

“Every parent that has talked to me doesn’t want the school teaching this and the indoctrination,” Butler said.

APR asked Butler if he had any statistics to back up his claims of indoctrination to which Butler responded by saying he didn’t have statistics but proof. When asked to share that proof with AP,  Butler responded: “No, I’m not going to send that to you. It’s been handled.” 

After the meeting, all of the speakers and other advocates spoke with Butler and began to tell him that they were just humans seeking dignity and respect. Data has shown that suicidality in LGBTQ+ individuals falls when they are supported in safe, gender-affirming communities. 

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“All of these bills are niche bills being spread around by right wing hate groups like Moms For Liberty,” Miller said.  “And our state presents these when they have nothing else. They’re not presenting things that are going to make our lives better. They’re not they’re not building more schools, they’re building more prisons.”

The bill was not voted on during the meeting and Butler also said that it was still being worked on for next session.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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