The Republican-controlled House passed a measure on Friday limiting transgender students’ school rights. The bill is expected to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
H.R. 5, also known as the Parents Bill of Rights Act, passed 213-208, with five Republicans and all Democrats voting against it. GOP Reps. Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, Matt Gaetz, Mike Lawler, and Matt Rosendale did not support the bill.
In the legislation, sponsored by Republican Rep. Julia Letlow of Louisiana, schools must publish their curricula publicly, allow parents to meet their children’s teachers, and provide information to parents when violence occurs at school. Additionally, the legislation would require schools to list the books and reading materials available in their school libraries, and it would give parents a voice when schools update or craft privacy policies and procedures.
A key provision of the bill would require schools that take steps to respect a student’s gender identity to forcefully out transgender students to their parents, even if this is dangerous for them.
A “Parents Opt-in Protection Act” was introduced to limit the ability of students to fill out surveys about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Critics argue that his provision limits the country’s ability to collect data about school students’ experiences, both LGBTQ+ and not.
It also includes a provision requiring schools, upon request, to share their children’s answers to surveys with parents, potentially outing students if surveys ask about being part of the LGBTQ+ community. However, experts argue that this would also encourage students to lie on surveys if they are uncomfortable with their answers being revealed, undermining the accuracy of all data they collect.
Democrats highlight that two provisions contain offensive language about transgender people. These provisions, critics say, are designed to mislead parents about transgender people and motivate them to oppose trans-inclusive policies.
During the House debate on Thursday, Representative Lauren Boebert proposed two amendments that quickly passed. Boebert’s first amendment protects a parent’s right to know if their child’s school has athletic programs, sponsors, or facilitates activities that allow transgender individuals to participate in sports other than the gender assigned to them at birth. In another amendment sponsored by Boebert, parents are entitled to know whether their child’s school allows transgender students to use a changing room or bathroom that doesn’t match their gender assigned at birth.
Boebert has been a vocal anti-LGBTQ+ member of Congress.
Congress's Equality Caucus called out the legislation.
“H.R. 5 is a dangerous bill that would require schools to forcibly out transgender students, even if it puts those youth in harm’s way. All children deserve access to a safe and affirming school environment, yet H.R. 5 does not address any of the actual needs of our students, schools, or parents. Instead, it targets the wellbeing of LGBTQI+ children,” said Equality Caucus Chair, Wisconsin’s Rep. Mark Pocan. “Transgender youth have enough challenges already due to harassment, bullying, and anti-transgender state laws. My colleagues who voted for this bill should be ashamed.”
The Equality Caucus's political arm, Equality PAC, co-chairs Rep. Mark Takano of California and Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York also excoriated House Republicans for their vote.
“Instead of focusing on what parents actually want, which is a good education for their children and schools that are safe, House Republicans have decided to target LGBTQ children, placing them directly in harm’s way,”said Takano and Torres in a joint statement. “This Politics Over Parents bill outs LGBTQ students, putting them at risk for harassment, bullying, and life-threatening situations. This discriminatory bill is full of hate directed towards LGBTQ children, and it is sick that House Republicans seek to put this already vulnerable group in the crosshairs. We remain committed to doing everything we can to support LGBTQ children and ensure this bill never becomes law.”
LGBTQ+ rights groups also condemned the bill.
National LGBTQ+ group the Human Rights Campaign said the legislation is not about what parents want, but is just about playing politics.
"All this bill would do is hamstring local school officials, teachers and parents from making important decisions about what’s right for their students," David Stacy, the organization's government affairs director, said. "These efforts to censor curriculum and force the outing of transgender and nonbinary students are borrowing from a discriminatory wave of bills sweeping the country — a wave of bills, incidentally, that the majority of voters have not asked for and do not support."
Stacy added: "We expect that Senate leadership will choose to focus on the real issues confronting our students and our schools rather than taking up this empty, time-wasting piece of legislation.”