BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A much-debated bill failed to pass after becoming the subject of discussion during a Tuesday, 9 a.m. meeting of The Committee on Education.
Though a host of bills were on the agenda, one bill that the committee debated for hours was HB837.
HB837 was authored by Representative Dodie Horton and if passed it would prohibit classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels.”
The bill, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, would also “prohibit teachers and others from discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity with students.”
HB837 was introduced into the state legislature on Thursday, March 17.
During the meeting Rep. Horton explained that the bill is meant to prohibit instructors from deviating from their curriculum to discuss sexual orientation in Kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms.
Rep. Horton used an example to support the bill, stating that if a Muslim student were to ask their teacher a question about Islam versus Christianity during a Math class, the teacher would stay on topic.
She went on to say that teachers should do the same when the topic of sexual orientation is brought up in the classroom. Instead of veering off-topic, the teacher should steer the classroom discussion back to the approved curriculum.
That said, discussing the topic outside of the classroom is not prohibited.
Jennifer Kerrigan of ‘Louisiana Schools’ also emphasized the fact that HB837 has nothing to do with how an individual personally feels about people of other sexual orientations.
Kerrigan said the bill, “Has nothing to do with how we love other people” but with how parents decide to address the subject at home.
Kerrigan went on to say, “Please keep our schools focused on the fundamentals. Keep our parenting decisions at home. Do not let this bill be about anything hateful… because it’s not. Remind yourself of that.”
After Kerrigan addressed officials, a local religious leader spoke, saying, “You don’t allow me to come in and teach my views.” He then asked lawmakers to prevent others from expressing their personal views in schools.
As the discussion continued to unfold, a debate about the definition of “classroom hours” arose. This is because the bill specifically prohibits discussion of sexual orientation during classroom hours.
The debate ended with one party saying the matter should be left in the hands of the School Board and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
Arguments for and against the bill were lengthy and emotional, with some sharing personal accounts.
When it was time to vote, it was decided to dispose of the bill and provide a substitute motion at a vote of eight (in favor of providing a substitute bill) to four (not in favor of creating a substitute bill).
After the vote was taken, Rep. Phelps spoke up and mentioned that she was offended by the committee’s decision to dispose of Rep. Horton’s bill and create a new one.
Her comment was acknowledged and the committee moved on to Rep. Jefferson who said he would also like to add an amendment to the bill and then to other representatives who had a host of questions about details within the proposed law.
Eventually, Rep. Brass proposed that Rep. Horton volunteer to defer the bill to work on it some more.
But Rep. Amedee objected to this, stating that the place to work on the bill would be with the committee, during their meeting.
At this point, lawmakers voted on sending the bill to the House and the bill failed, 4-7.
The entire committee meeting was live streamed and can be viewed in the video player above.