Missouri Senate Committee to hear “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

The discussion of a so called "Don't Say Gay Bill" in Missouri's prompting protests at the State Capitol
Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 4:37 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 8, 2023 at 4:24 PM CST
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SAINT LOUIS, Mo. (KFVS) - The Missouri Senate Committee will be hearing what is called the most extreme “Don’t Say Gay” bill to date in the United States.

On Tuesday, February 7, the Missouri Senate Education and Workforce Committee will be having a public hearing at 8:15 a.m. on Senate Bill 134, also known as the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act.” According to PROMO, Missouri’s LGBTQ+ public policy and advocacy organization, this will be the most extreme “Don’t Say Gay’' bill to date in the U.S.

Bill 134 prohibits public and charter faculty and staff from having conversations relating to sexual orientation and gender identity with students, unless said faculty or staff member was licensed in mental health care with prior parent permission. PROMO believes this would include curriculum, mentioning a student’s LGBTQ+ parents, or even discussing bullying or harassment LGBTQ+ students face. Shira Berkowitz, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for PROMO, says this bill is too broad and can be worked around if desired.

“This bill is written broadly enough that you can’t talk or read about human relationships at all,” said Berkowitz. “The recent ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill that passed in Florida was step one in erasing conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation within grade school curriculum. Missouri is taking the next giant leap by aiming to stop faculty, staff, and students from talking about these and related topics at all.”

Suspected challenges include teachers being unable to discuss any books that involves LGBTQ+ people or characters, the inability to mention LGBTQ+ history, or discussing anything to do with human relationships. Additionally, principals or faculty could be banned from discussing bullying or harassment a student may endure.

Katy Erker-Lynch, Executive Director of PROMO, says that according to a recent survey, 56% of LGBTQ+ parents have considered moving out of Florida and 17% have already taken steps to do so. Both percentages because of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill that passed last March. Erker-Lynch worries that the same thing would happen to those in Missouri.

“Should this legislation pass, I have no doubt families like mine will seriously consider leaving the State of Missouri. I think that’s what the bill sponsor seeks: to instill fear, censor, and to have a chilling effect across education. We need faith, business, civic, and private sector leadership to stand with us in calling out this outrageous bill aiming to silence and deny the existence — the very right to live — of LGBTQ+ Missourians,” said Erker-Lynch.

PROMO is expected to host a rally on Tuesday, February 7, starting at 12:30 p.m. at the Missouri State Capitol steps with expected speakers. Speakers include those from PROMO, The Trevor Project, Family Equality, Youth in Need, Show Me KC Schools, and more. The public is invited to attend the event.