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Indiana LGBTQ group pushing back on national 'Don't Say Gay' legislation

Earlier this week, more than 30 Republican lawmakers from across the nation presented the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022.

INDIANAPOLIS — Dozens of Republican lawmakers from around the country have put forward a bill that would prohibit schools from providing sex education and libraries from offering books with LGBTQ topics to kids under 10 years old.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, who proposed the legislation, said this is needed because, “The Democrat Party and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology."

At least one LGBTQ support group in Indiana is pushing back, asserting this proposed bill does more harm to kids than good.

"In my opinion, this has nothing to do with sexuality, this has nothing to do with sexualizing kids, it's about harming the LGBTQ+ community," said Zoe O'Haillin-Berne, director of engagement at Indiana Youth Group, which offers support and resources for LGBTQ youth.

Earlier this week, more than 30 Republican lawmakers from across the nation presented the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022, which seeks to stop the use of federal funds "to develop, implement, facilitate or fund any sexually oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10."

Critics are calling it a national "Don't Say Gay" bill, named after a similar controversial Florida law that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law earlier this year.

RELATED: What does Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill actually do?

O'Haillin-Berne said this legislation is concerning, potentially opening up the gates for bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students.

"Now they can bully and teachers can't stick up for them, because they can't explain why it's wrong to ostracize someone for their identity. If they were to explain that, they could face really bad repercussions for it. So yeah, it is going to lead to more bullying and the less the teachers can do, the teachers' hands are going to be tied as far as helping those students who need it the most," O'Haillin-Berne said. 

The bill defines sexually oriented material as "any depiction, description, or simulation of sexual activity, any lewd or lascivious depiction or description of human genitals, or any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation or related subjects."

It would impact federally funded facilities and programs including libraries, schools, military bases and hospitals, halting sex education in schools or library books that include LGBTQ topics to kids under 10.

"Whenever these conversations come up, they use the word 'sexualization' as the buzz word to it but it usually has more to do with identity. So I'm very concerned of what this is going to mean for these kids, that they feel they need to suppress their identity," O'Haillin-Berne said. 

O'Haillin-Berne said this bill was made to resolve issues that don't exist, but she stressed it has the potential to create problems for students and schools impacted by these suppressive measures.  She's hoping to see people around the country take action to ensure it's never passed.

RELATED: Ohio GOP lawmakers push sexual orientation discussion ban

"Citizens across Indianapolis and citizens across the nation should be making their opinions known and letting people know that this could do real harm. And if we're here for the kids, we need to be here for all kids," O'Haillin-Berne said. 

13News reached out to Indiana's Congressional representatives in regard to the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022.  

We heard back from Rep. André Carson, D-Indiana, who sent a statement that reads, "I strongly oppose any measure that makes children feel shame or guilt for who they are. Preventing children from even speaking about their identity and feelings to a trusted adult only reinforces a sense of not belonging, which can have serious consequences."

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