The Missouri state representative behind a “don’t say gay” bill is talking about the need to keep personal beliefs out of schools, even though her legislation clearly reflects her beliefs.
“We must keep our personal beliefs out of our classrooms,” Republican Rep. Ann Kelley said Wednesday during a committee hearing on the House version of the bill, the Columbia Missourianreports.
Kelley’s House Bill 634 would prohibit instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in public and charter schools all the way through 12th grade, making it more extreme than the “don’t say gay” law adopted in Florida last year, which bans this instruction in grades K-3 and requires that it be “age-appropriate” after. Missouri Sen. Mike Moon has introduced similar legislation in his chamber.
Several colleagues challenged Kelley, including Rep. Phil Christofanelli, a gay Republican, who wondered if it would prevent teachers from stating that George and Martha Washington were married — heterosexuality being a sexual orientation too, after all. “Which sexual orientations do you want prohibited?” he said.
Media coverage doesn’t include Kelley’s response, but the Missourian notes that Rep. Brad Pollitt, the committee chair, had to ask attendees to stop laughing at her.
Democratic Rep. Ian Mackey, a gay man and former preschool teacher, queried Kelley as to whether her bill would mean he couldn’t mention his husband to students.
“Did you ever inform your students on your beliefs?” Kelley asked him, according to the Associated Press.
“They did know I was gay,” Mackey replied. “They would see my wedding ring and they would ask about it, and I would say I have a husband.” Kelley said she wasn’t sure if her bill would prohibit that disclosure.
Only two people testified in favor of the bill, the Missourian reports, while several, including members of the clergy, testified against it. Kelley had talked about her Christian beliefs and how they informed her legislation, while the clergy members pointed out that there are belief systems, Christian and otherwise, that are accepting of LGBTQ+ people.
“My faith is not a reason to hate,” said the Rev. Mike Angel, an Episcopal minister. Rabbi Daniel Bogard noted that he opposed Kelley’s bill because it would base state law on certain favored Christian beliefs and because it would harm students.
Another aspect of the bill is that it would require school personnel to notify parents about any changes in student’s mental and emotional health, including information about their sexual orientation or gender identity — in other words, forced outing. Several LGBTQ+ students testified about their concerns about outing.
Witness Stacy Cay, a comedian in Kansas City, discussed being homeschooled in a conservative Christian family in Arkansas and eventually being disowned by her family because she’s transgender. Her homeschool group included two other trans girls, and they died by suicide, she said. She now spends much time testifying against anti-trans legislation.
“I don’t know if Republicans will be affected, but hopefully my testimony will raise awareness among average Americans,” she told the Missourian.