SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Utah Rep. Jeff Stenquist (R-Draper) has unveiled a new bill in the legislature that would limit the discussion of gender and sexuality in the classrooms of any student in grades 3 or below.
H.B. 550, which is basically seven lines long and under 65 words, reads as follows:
Each [Local Education Agency] and each school shall ensure that classroom instruction or classroom discussion that an educator or other adult leads on sexuality, including sexual orientation or gender identity, as those terms are defined in Section 34A-5-102, does not occur: (1) in kindergarten through grade 3; or (2) in a manner that is not age or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.H.B. 550, Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Stenquist
The bill as it exists as of this writing has no enforcement mechanism built into it, nor does it list any penalties for breaking the proposed law. No money has been appropriated toward the bill.
ABC4 asked Stenquist what his main objective is with H.B. 550.
“Simply to provide some common-sense guidelines to make sure that classroom conversations around sexuality are age and developmentally appropriate,” said Stenquist.
When asked what “developmentally appropriate” means beyond grade 3, Stenquist said. “That would be up to local schools and districts. I wasn’t looking to dictate to that level of detail.”
However, the state’s LGBTQ community is not happy with Stenquist’s bill, and they plan to fight it.
“Equality Utah is very dismayed to see a ‘Don’t Say Gay‘ bill introduced in Utah, especially when the Utah Legislature enacted legislation repealing similar language from Utah code in 2017,” said Equality Utah Policy Director Marina Lowe. “This bill is damaging and stigmatizing to LGBTQ children and their families, and we will oppose it vigorously.”
The bill has some similarities to a bill passed in Florida, which has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Like Florida’s law, no classroom instruction is allowed by school personnel or outside parties to children grades K-3. The sparseness of the language in Stenquist’s bill is similar to Florida’s law, which the National Education Association raises many questions about.
“Does it mean, for example, that an educator can use books with LGBTQ+ characters so long as the discussion of those books does not focus on their sexual orientation or gender identity?” asked the NEA. “Does it mean that all discussion of families and the many different ways families are formed must be avoided altogether in grades K-3?”
Unlike when Florida’s bill passed, however, the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are terms defined by law in Utah:
“Gender identity” has the meaning provided in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). A person’s gender identity can be shown by providing evidence, including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity, or other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held, part of a person’s core identity, and not being asserted for an improper purpose.
“Sexual orientation” means an individual’s actual or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.