Louisiana Congressman Introduces Federal “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Students at Benjamin Franklin High School protest anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. | Photo by Jennsen Bentley

Louisiana Congressman Rep. Mike Johnson introduced a bill that would prohibit the discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender dysphoria, and any related subjects with children under 10 at any public or private institution that receives federal funds. The “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022” has been equated to a federal version of Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill. The bill is co-sponsored by 32 other Republicans, including Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins.

“The Democrat Party and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology,” Johnson said.

Should the bill become law, local and state agencies such as the Department of Health would be prevented from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with children. According to Chris Kaiser, advocacy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, the bill’s wide-reaching nature poses significant First Amendment concerns.

“The effect of overly broad laws like this is that it creates a chilling effect ton of expression that is constitutionally protected and is perfectly legal, but because people don’t know what they might get in trouble for, they’ll tend to self-censor,” Kaiser said.

The bill specifically targets drag shows, especially those performed on military bases, which it describes as “burlesque shows” – in spite of the fact that family-friendly drag events do not include nudity – and “radical gender theory,” which it doesn’t provide a definition for. If passed, parents could file lawsuits against any public or private entity that receives federal dollars, and any agency found to be in violation more than once in a five-year period would lose federal funding for three years.

In recent years, Republicans across the country have pointed to family-friendly drag shows in an attempt to paint the LGBTQ+ community as sexualizing children – in some cases even referring to them as “groomers.” In actuality, grooming occurs when an adult takes advantage of a child’s vulnerability to coerce and/or manipulate them into sexual acts. Johnson himself has parroted this idea when attempting to defend his bill.

“??Those who support the sexualization of our culture are mischaracterizing my bill because they oppose the basic truth that young children should be learning about reading, writing, and math at elementary school, not radical gender theory and sensitive subjects that are the responsibility of parents,” Johnson said.

“Instead of joining the rising tide of acceptance and bipartisan support for LGBTQ people, members of Congress trying to score political points propose a bill filled with misinformation with the futile attempt of smearing and erasing who we are,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD. “The American people see this for what it is: a desperate and losing effort targeting the most vulnerable students, with the goal of spreading lies.”

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