Several states have recently advanced anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including Montana, Kentucky, and Idaho, on issues including pronoun use, education, and mental health, raising concerns among out and allied politicians.
The Montana House of Representatives Thursday approved House Bill 361, which would allow school personnel to ignore a student’s chosen name and pronouns. That action would not be discrimination, according to the bill, which will now be considered by the Senate.
During debate on the measure the previous day, Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the first out trans woman in the legislature, spoke out strongly against it, the Daily Montananreports. Her colleagues have avoided using pronouns for her, “but no one in this body has come up to me and said, ‘You’re a man,’” she said. “Because we would recognize that’s not right, that’s unkind, that’s out of decorum.” Such decorum should also be expected in schools, she said.
Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley issued a statement condemning the move. “Transgender kids deserve the same opportunity that every kid does — to grow up knowing that they are respected and valued for who they are,” she said. “This cruel bill will make life even harder on transgender kids in Montana, making them feel alienated and ostracized at school — a place where they should have the chance to learn and grow in a welcoming environment. All of us should be working to make sure that every child feels safe when they show up for school. This bill does the opposite. It should not become law.”
The Kentucky Senate Thursday passed Senate Bill 150, which also deals with pronouns — school staff would not be required to use pronouns that don’t match a student’s birth sex — but goes further in anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ policies.
Schools could not require personnel to keep certain student information from parents, meaning staffers could out LGBTQ+ students to their families. School workers could withhold the information if there was evidence it could lead to abuse, Spectrum News 1 reports.
In addition, the legislation would mandate that parents be given notice about any instruction on human sexuality and an opportunity to review the materials. If parents disapprove, the student would receive an alternative course. The measure will now be considered by the House.
Democratic Sen. Karen Berg denounced the bill. She is the mother of Henry Berg-Brousseau, a transgender HRC employee who died by suicide last year. “Your vote yes on this bill means one of two things,” she said during Senate debate, according to Spectrum News 1. “Either you believe that trans children do not exist, or you believe that trans children do not deserve to exist.”
HRC Legislative Counsel Courtnay Avant released a statement against the legislation, saying, “School policy should focus on education, not discrimination. SB 150 is a shameful, mean-spirited bill designed to make LGBTQ+ students feel isolated. Caught in the crosshairs of elected officials’ divisive political strategy are vulnerable kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence and should feel supported in school. Honoring a student’s chosen name and pronouns is essential to affirming their identity and showing basic respect. As Sen. Berg said [Thursday] on the floor, this bill takes the single most important thing that can be done to improve a child’s health and well-being and could force teachers to do the opposite. Children deserve safe and affirming spaces in school, and teachers should feel empowered to provide them. The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemns the Kentucky Senate’s actions … and urges the Kentucky House to do the right thing and oppose this discriminatory bill.”
In Idaho, the House of Representatives Wednesday passed House Bill 63, which states that no professional counselor or therapist “shall be required to counsel or serve a client regarding goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor or therapist.” The provider would have to make a referral to an alternative professional. It now goes to the Senate.
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said the legislation would create a license to discriminate. “It is disturbing that Idaho politicians are choosing to prioritize the personal beliefs of health care providers above the urgent medical needs of patients,” she said in a press release. “Religious freedom is a central tenet of our society, and it is entirely consistent with ensuring that everyone is able to access health care when needed. Creating a license to discriminate, including against LGBTQ+ people, sets a dangerous precedent for all Idahoans. The shortage of mental health professionals is already at a crisis point, and this legislation will unnecessarily further curtail access. Idaho deserves better.”