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Anti-DEI, “divisive concepts” legislation passes Senate

The bill will now move to the House for potential passage.

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On Thursday, the Senate gave passage to a bill that prohibits diversity, equity and inclusion programming along with what are defined as “divisive concepts” in certain public institutions.

The legislation, SB129, is sponsored by Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, and it passed on a 26-7 party-line vote after over six hours of discussion on the bill. The bill mentions public schools, universities and other state agencies as areas where DEI programs or “divisive concepts” are not allowed. 

This bill also targets bathroom use by transgender individuals as it requires each public occupancy restroom at a public institution of higher education to be designated for use based on biological sex.

Democratic Senate members spoke during the day about how the legislation was unnecessary, dangerous and undermines the benefits of inclusion. During the floor discussions, Democratic members offered several different amendments to the legislation to protect against several unintended consequences.

These changes included protections against potential issues with Title IX funding, protects the Alabama Office of Minority Affairs and ensures public boards that are required to be inclusive and diverse are unaffected by the legislation. 

The amendments also eliminated original language that would have prevented teachers from mentioning that America was founded on slavery and racism. Despite the changes the Democrats were still unhappy with the legislation but understanding it would pass wanted to ensure some safeguards were in place.

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, stated that the legislation was “unnecessary” and he also questioned why there was an apparent rush to get the bill passed quickly. SB129 dropped late Tuesday evening and proceeded to move through a committee meeting on Wednesday before being passed out of the Senate on Thursday.

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There appears to be a concerted push by the ALGOP this year to get many of the culture war issues passed through as quickly as possible. Last week two bills by Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, targeting libraries and the Alabama Department of Archives passed the Senate. 

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, questioned why his Republican colleagues believe that just because time has passed certain issues have been resolved when it comes to race or social problems.

“Why do we think that just because time itself passes that everything is alright now,” Smitherman said. “It ain’t alright, not for Black people. It’s not.” 

Alabama Senate Republican Caucus released a statement from several members celebrating the bill’s passage.

“We are all made in God’s image, and our unique qualities should be celebrated,” said Senator Greg Reed, President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate. “However, while we are each unique, we have more that unites us than divides us. Students go to schools to learn and set themselves up for a bright future. Opportunities for togetherness is what this legislation tries to achieve, and I am thankful that all members in the body were able to engage in meaningful ways on this legislation.”

The bill will now move to the House for potential passage.

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

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