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Texas Lawmaker Introduces Worse Version of 'Don't Say Gay' Law

Texas GOP Rep. Jared Patterson

As if Florida's restriction on access to information about LGBTQ+ topics for public school students wasn't tight enough.

On Tuesday, while the U.S. House of Representatives was in disarray due to Republican infighting, a lawmaker in Texas introduced his version of a "don't say gay" law.

State Rep. Jared Patterson's bill, HB 1155, requires schools to disclose all information related to students' mental health information to parents, which exposes children to being forced out of the closet by school officials and adds language to the state's education code that would restrict the instruction of topics on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"A school district, open-enrollment charter school, or district or charter school employee may not provide or allow a third party to provide instruction regarding sexual orientation or gender identity: (1) to students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade; or (2) in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate," the bill's text reads.

In a statement on his website, Patterson touts his bill as an improved version of Florida's draconian Parental Rights in Education Law, more often referred to as the "don't say gay" law.

"This legislation would restrict all classroom lessons and discussions on the issue of an individual's sexual preference or gender identity until high school, thereby protecting the youngest and most vulnerable children from unscientific, inaccurate, and inappropriate information," the statement read.

"The sexualization of our children must stop. Parents and taxpayers have spoken loudly over the past year-plus. The message is no more radical ideology in the classroom - particularly when it comes to inappropriate or obscene content." Patterson said in the statement. "Given what we've uncovered, this bill is needed to provide parents with the maximum transparency and control over health-related services in our schools."

The state lawmaker didn't elaborate on what he meant by "given what we've uncovered."

Critics of Florida's legislation have complained that not only does forcing school officials to disclose whether students have sought ought services to assist them with their sexual orientation or gender identity unnecessarily puts kids at risk.

Similarly, as with Florida's law, the language in Patterson's bill fails to define what is specifically age or developmentally appropriate -- another issue that critics and LGBTQ+ advocates have brought up.

Whereas Florida's law restricts topics on LGBTQ+ matters through third grade, the Texas version would extend the prohibition of discussion through eighth grade.

Opponents argue that restricting access to topics on sexual orientation and gender identity well into puberty in grade eight and withholding valuable information during regular sexual education courses in schools is further damaging to LGBTQ+ young people.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state's measure into law in March 2022, sparking fiery debate between child welfare activists and GOP political operatives on the importance of teachers' abilities to instruct students without fear of retaliation on the existence of LGBTQ+ people.

"Every LGBTQ+ person was once a child. And our school system is set up to prepare children for the life ahead of them," Equality Texas communication director Jonathan Gooch told the Dallas Observer. "Teachers and educators have used their training and experience to sculpt age-appropriate materials about orientation and gender -- things like a book about two male penguins that raise a child or a family with two moms -- so why would we treat something so ordinary like it's taboo."

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