Chaos in the House continued where it left off on January 6th (2023)

ForAlex NguyenjGuillermo Melhado, The Texas Tribune

January 9, 2023

Two bills that would ban teaching sexual orientation and gender identity in Texas public schools before certain grade levels are poised to garner the strongest Republican support of this year's legislative session. But critics warn that the legislation could further marginalize LGBTQ students and families, while exposing teachers to potential legal threats.

The two bills prepared by the deputies.Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, yJared Patterson, R-Frisco, looks very similar to the Florida legislature that critics have calledLaw "don't say gay"..House Bill 631jInvoice 1155they are between oneBarrage of anti-LGBTQ lawsAwaiting lawmakers when they return to the Capitol on Tuesday.

Florida lawIt prohibits schools from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Both Texas bills reflect such a ban. Toth's HB 631 would extend the restriction to fifth class. Patterson's HB 1155 would extend it through eighth grade.

Their proposals would also ban classes on sex and gender identity at all levels of education if they "are not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate." Patterson's bill does not define what is appropriate for different age groups. Toth's bill requires education to conform to state standards, but does not specify which standards.

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Like the Florida law, the two Texas bills do not specifically prohibit the use of the word "gay" in schools. Drafters of the bills also argue that the legislation would protect "parents' rights" by giving them more direct control over what their children learn at school, including the existence of different sexual orientations and gender identities.

"Parents' rights are fundamental to a child's safety and well-being," Patterson said.A tweet from January 3Introduce your account. "That's why I filed HB 1155 to ensure that no school teaches children after 8th grade a radical gender ideology and that parents have to review and approve all health-related services."

governorIt's Patrick pointedthat he would support passage of a Texas version of the Florida bill even before those bills were introduced.

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"I will give this bill top priority in the next session," he said in an April campaign email.

Critics of the legislation argue that the vague nature of the bills would stifle discussion of LGBTQ issues and representation.

“The reality is that everyone has a gender identity and sexual orientation; It's incredibly difficult to avoid these conversations," Adri Perez, organizing director of the Texas Freedom Network, told The Texas Tribune. "What comes out of this is a tool that can be used specifically against LGBTQIA+ people, because what stands out is not people. who fit in, but the people who are specifically targeted and told to be different.”

The bills come amid a political environment in which LGBTQ people face increasing hostility. The Texas Republican legislature this session is supporting legislation focused on gender-affirming care for trans youth and drag. The state's official Republican Party manifesto explicitly opposes "efforts to validate transgender identity." He also refers to homosexuality as "an abnormal lifestyle choice", although most people have "little or no choice about their sexual orientation".according to the American Psychological Association.

Toth's office told the Tribune it was unable to answer questions about the story. Patterson did not respond to requests for comment.

Ricardo Martinez, executive director of Equality Texas, an LGBTQ organization, is concerned that one aspect of the bills could result in some students being discovered prematurely or forced to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to their parents before they are willing to share this Personal Information. Training.

Both bills would require school districts to notify parents when there are changes in how campus officials provide services or monitor a student's "mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being."

“This list of divisive and inhumane bills makes the government intrude on our most personal choices and seeks to prohibit any honest conversation about race, gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Martinez.

Both bills also propose that the Texas Education Agency "review and revise" various structures governing school counseling and educator practices ahead of the new 2024 school year.

Patrick and the mayorDade PhelanTribune's offices did not respond to Tribune's requests for comment.

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since last yearTexas educators pointed out that elementary schools in the state already have little formal teaching about gender identity or sexuality.

Patty Quinzi, director of public affairs and legal counsel for the Texas American Federation of Teachers, said the contentsex educationin public schools is determined by local school authorities. These government agencies often appoint parents and administrators to act as school health councils, who help ensure that community values ​​are incorporated into health education.

Quinzi said no one has found substantial examples of schools teaching elementary or high school students about sexual orientation and gender identity.

"It's like a bad solution looking for a problem, because I've never heard of this being a problem," he said.

The only underlying issue raised by parents is the presence of books featuring LGBTQ characters in school libraries, which has led to lawsuits to remove certain books from school shelves. A September report by PEN America, a non-profit organization that advocates for free speech, found thatTexas banned more booksfocuses on racial and LGBTQ issues than any other state in the country.

"We're wondering how this will affect LGBTQIA teachers, and does that mean someone can't upload a photo of their family?" said Quinzi. "What fear will this create in teachers and allow them to be themselves?"

Quinzi was concerned about the consequences of teacher identity suppression for LGBTQ students who may not have a safe home environment to be themselves.

"It's really important for kids to reflect on their teachers," he said.

These proposed bans on classroom teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity could limit or prevent discussion of many topics, from marriage equality to adoption and the AIDS epidemic. They can also cover smaller topics like B. Gender-specific dress codes and quizzes that ask students if they are a boy or a girl, Perez said.

And, as in Florida, it is feared that these laws could restrict free speech in Texas.

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“It creates a scary environment in which a teacher can be criminalized, attacked or fired from the job they love,” Perez said.

For teachers, the legal gray area of ​​avoiding these issues if one of the bills becomes law can be difficult.

Chloe Kempf and Brian Klosterboer, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the bills could explicitly endanger teachers and school districts in the form of lawsuits from parents who believe they are not complying with the law.

Toth's bill provides a mechanism for parents to sue school districts for violating its proposals, which includes the parent notification portion of this bill. Experts say some of these bills could require teachers to disfellowship their students, and parents could sue districts if teachers fail to comply. School districts would have to shoulder the costs of these processes, experts say.

More broadly, Kempf said the bills would pose risks to schools and educators in the form of potential ultra vires lawsuits, allowing citizens to sue officials who violate state laws. While it's unclear whether these types of lawsuits would be successful, Klosterboer said the biggest impact is more confusion and headaches for schools.

“When a law is vague, it allows for discriminatory and specific application. And it also creates a very hostile and unpleasant atmosphere where people... go out of their way to self-censor," Kempf said.

The vague language of the bills could also pose challenges for schools trying to protect teachers from potential lawsuits.

“[Schools] may not even know what to tell teachers and staff about how to really protect themselves and the school district,” Klosterboer said.

Klosterboer added that it was "very likely" that the governor.Greg Abtsigning either account would lead to legal challenges.

Last month, a coalition of 18 Democratic attorney generals from across the countryA letter from the Friend of the Court sentin support of a lawsuit filed by Florida families and LGBTQ advocacy groups against the state law. The lawsuit, filed shortly after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law, argues that the law violates free speech and the right to due process and equal protection.

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On the other hand, Florida received the support of 14 states led by the Republicans. "The law does not violate anyone's right to speak or receive information, does not discriminate, and is not unconstitutional," the statement said.Court friend letterpresented on December 7 by the Attorney GeneralKen Paxtonon behalf of Texas and 13 other states.

Even before these bills, trans people in Texas were receiving significant negative attention from mainstream Republicans.

Following a non-binding legal opinion from Paxton last February, Abbott ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services toexamine the parentswho enabled gender-affirming care for their childrenchild abuse. In the weeks following his direction, hospitals and health care providers across Texaslimited critical treatment, for fear of legal repercussions if they have been subjected to gender-affirming treatment endorsed byall major medical associations. But Abbott's decision was also importantlegal challenges.

The Washington Post also reported last month that Paxton asked for it.Facts about Transtexansof the Texas Department of Public Safety. Authorities did not say why the information was requested.

Ultimately, LGBTQ advocates argue that these legislative measures are just another attack on an already marginalized population. Last week, Texas Republican lawmakers already introduced 35 anti-LGBTQ bills for the 2023 session, which Martinez said far exceeds the number of such bills introduced ahead of the 2021 session.

“The legislation aims to stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate LGBTQ children and scare teachers into providing safe and inclusive classrooms,” she said.

Disclosure: The Texas ACLU, Equality Texas, Texas AFT and Texas Freedom Network financially supported The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by member donations, foundations and corporate sponsors. Donors play no role in Tribune's journalism. find a completelist them here.

This article originally appeared onThe Texas Tribunean

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom that informs and involves Texans in state politics and politics. Learn more at


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