House Republicans Have Introduced a National “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Oct 20, 22
House Republicans Have Introduced a National “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

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The bill treats any material that talks about gender as equivalent to pornography.

Burbank CA  March 22 LGBTQ employees protesting CEO Bob Chapek's handling of the staff controversy over Florida's Don't...

Burbank, CA - March 22: LGBTQ employees protesting CEO Bob Chapek's handling of the staff controversy over Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, aka the "Parental Rights in Education" bill walk out from Walt Disney Animation on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 in Burbank, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)Irfan Khan/Getty Images

More than 30 House Republicans have sponsored a bill that would establish an even more expansive version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law at the national level.

On Tuesday, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson introduced H.R. 9197, or the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act,” which if passed would prohibit the use of federal dollars to fund “any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10” — which, in practice, will likely mean anything related to LGBTQ+ people.

The bill defines “sexually-oriented” in what appears to be an intentionally broad way. In addition to “lewd or lascivious” description of genitalia, the bill also targets “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects,” treating any discussion of gender or sexual identity as the equivalent of exposing children to pornography. Much like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, H.R. 9197 seems deliberately vague, allowing for conservative politicians and judges to crack down on LGBTQ+ speech, education, and expression, particularly that of transgender people, while leaving hetero displays of sexual desire unperturbed.

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Like many of his Republican colleagues, Johnson is especially fixated on what he deems “radical gender theory” and the idea that trans people and drag queens are sexually abusing children by their very existence. In a press release touting the bill’s introduction, Johnson cites an anti-trans report called “Grooming Future Revolutionaries” from right-wing think tank The Claremont Institute, which in recent years has aligned itself with extremist conspiracy theories and a vehement defense of former president Donald Trump. Johnson’s bill has already received the support of former Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller, who tweeted Wednesday to “VOTE REPUBLICAN” in response to an announcement of the bill.

Of course, with Democrats currently in control of both chambers of Congress, the bill has little chance of passing — but that’s not the point. H.R. 9197 has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a longtime LGBTQ+ rights advocate who this year advocatedfor streamlining the’ name change process for trans people on federal documents; and the House Committee on Education and Labor, whose chair Robert Scott has likewise advocated for the rights and safety of trans prisoners.

With less than a month remaining before the midterm elections, Johnson’s bill seems less like a legitimate policy proposal, especially as Florida’s legislation faces a lawsuit over its own constitutionality, and more a piece of political gamesmanship, demonstrating to the Republican base that he and his cosponsors are ready to make life hell for uppity queers across the nation if reelected.

Idaho drag

Even without Johnson’s influence, Louisiana in 2022 is a rough place to be queer or trans. Earlier this year, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards took no action on a school sports ban for trans athletes, allowing it to pass into law. Last month, Baton Rouge high school students say they were bussed to a “career fair” that turned out to be an anti-LGBTQ+ Christian event, during which trans students were bullied and other minors were instructed in the virtue of forgiving their rapists in life.

“God forbid I mention anything about sexual orientation, religion, or political agendas in my classroom,” one Baton Rouge teacher wrote on social media following the event. “I would be put under leave until investigation completion.”

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