Democratic members of the House of Representatives introduced a bill today to provide students with resources to learn about LGBTQ+ and women's history.
New York Democrats Carolyn B. Maloney and Ritchie Torres have introduced the LGBTQI+ and Women's History Education Act. The legislation would allow the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to formulate and distribute educational materials that promote an intersectional and inclusive approach to teaching LGBTQI+ history and women's history in the classroom.
The bill comes as Republicans aim at LGBTQ+ youth across the country. Ten anti-LGBTQ+ statutes took effect earlier this month, including Florida's "don't say gay" law.
"This is unacceptable and will be detrimental to the mental health of LGBTQI+ youth, which is why I introduced the LGBTQI+ and Women's History Education Act," said Maloney in a statement announcing the bill. "Women, too, deserve to be seen and represented in the classroom."
She says that historically, this country has downplayed the contributions of women, especially those of color.
"I have led the fight to create a national museum on women, and the LGBTQI+ and Women's History Education Act continues that legacy to ensure that women's history is taught nationwide," Maloney added.
Those who don't learn from history will repeat it, and children will be denied the chance to learn about the heroism of LGBTQ+ people and women, according to Torres.
"As Republican legislatures across the country attempt to silence the history and stories of LGBTQ families, we must act to proactively educate American youth," the congressman said. "I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me to make it possible for me to be the first openly gay Afro-Latino to be in Congress, and I am proud to work with Congresswoman Maloney on this critical legislation."
In response to an inquiry from The Advocate, Torres elaborated on why the legislation is vital to protecting children.
"The burden of the radical right-wing agenda is falling on our LGBTQ+ youth," Torres said. "Children in classrooms should not be deprived of the opportunity to learn about the heroism displayed by many in the LGBTQ+ and women's movements. It is the responsibility of the federal government to act swiftly to combat the LGBTQ+ youth mental health epidemic we are seeing across this country."
Advocates for this bill have praised its introduction and emphasized its importance.
"Education is the cornerstone of a multi-racial democracy, and learning about LGBTQIA+ and women's history is necessary to understanding U.S. history," said GLSEN executive director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers in a statement. "Through our research, we know inclusive curriculum cultivates safer and more supportive school environments where students hear fewer racial, transphobic, and homophobic slurs and other denigrating language; experience fewer incidents of bullying and harassment; and have a greater sense of belonging and wellbeing that allows them to thrive and reach their full potential."
GLAAD's president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, echoed Willingham-Jaggers.
"All children should be able to see themselves and their families reflected and represented in media, and in what they read and learn in school," Ellis said. "Women's history, LGBTQ history, and the heroes who have led our movements inspire all generations about the progress we've achieved and the work still to be done. Funding programs to improve the diversity and inclusivity of education is something everyone should support. LGBTQ people continue to contribute to their communities and country and are an important part of history."
Maloney told The Advocate that she believes that the opportunistic rhetoric used by Republicans to marginalize LGBTQ+ students is unacceptable, and she points out that it's detrimental to children's mental health.
"LGBTQI+ youth deserve to be represented in classrooms in an accurate, unbiased, and inclusive manner," Maloney said. "Children of LGBTQI+ parents deserve to be able to talk about their families without censorship. And all students deserve to be in an educational environment where they feel safe and valued.
"As a former public school teacher, I call on my colleagues to sign onto my LGBTQI+ and Women's History Education Act so that LGBTQI+ students know that we are with them, we see them, and we affirm their identities."
As of June 30, 25 harmful anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year, including the "don't say gay" law in Florida, HB 322 in Alabama, and HB 1012 in South Dakota, Human Rights Campaign data shows.
In addition, more than 35 discriminatory education bills were introduced in 2022, including the "Stop WOKE Act" in Florida, which also went into effect on July 1.
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