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Alabama Advances 'Don't Say Gay' Legislation in Last-Minute Amendment

Shay Shelnutt and Scott Stadthagen
From left: Alabama legislators Shay Shelnutt and Scott Stadthagen

The "don't say gay" measure was attached to an anti-trans "bathroom bill."

The Alabama Senate has passed "don't say gay" legislation, attached as a last-minute amendment to an anti-transgender "bathroom bill."

The House had already passed the bill on restroom restrictions, but because of the amendment, it will go back to the House for final approval, reports, a site for several Alabama newspapers.

Republican Sen. Shay Shelnutt introduced the amendment at the beginning of debate Thursday. It would bar teachers from offering instruction on gender and sexuality in grades K-5.

Sen. Bobby Singleton, a Democrat, challenged Shelnutt by asking if a theoretical "little Johnny" would be allowed to ask a teacher if he's a boy or a girl. Shelnutt responded, "Little Johnny, you're a boy," and Singleton replied, "You just answered the question based on gender."

The restroom bill would require students in public schools to use the bathrooms and changing rooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth. Rep. Scott Stadthagen, its sponsor, has claimed it's about the safety of female students. With the "don't say gay" amendment, it passed the Senate by a vote of 26-3.

The House is expected to vote Thursday on another anti-trans bill, this one criminalizing gender-affirming treatment for minors and subjecting providers to up to 10 years in prison. The Senate has approved it, but the House has yet to take action. If the bill becomes law, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and Cooley LLP have vowed to file a lawsuit against it.

"If passed and signed into law, Alabama will have the most deadly, sweeping, and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country," Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU's LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a press release. "The way to reduce harm to trans youth is to provide them with gender-affirming health care where it is medically indicated. This bill takes that lifesaving treatment option off the table and makes it a felony. Moving forward with this bill will be deadly for trans youth, push doctors out of a state that has a shortage of medical providers, hurt Alabama's economy, and subject the state to costly litigation."

Thursday is likely the last day of the Alabama legislative session, but there's a possibility it could be extended into Friday.

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