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Faith leaders condemn Indiana bills they say are hateful to trans youth

The letter accuses some lawmakers this session of promoting what these faith leaders are calling a "slate of hate."

INDIANAPOLIS — Close to 100 faith leaders from across Indiana have signed a letter sent to the General Assembly Thursday.

The letter accuses some lawmakers this session of promoting what these faith leaders are calling a "slate of hate."

"I hate that I had to sign that letter," said Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, with the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

She did though, asking the General Assembly not to support bills this session she believes unfairly target the LGBTQ community in Indiana, in particular transgender youth.

"Why would we be attempting to legislate hate for the youngest and most vulnerable people in our state?" Baskerville-Burrows asked.

That's how she and other faith leaders, who signed the same letter, see close to 20 bills authored this session that address issues involving gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender therapy for transgender people. Some of the bills deal specifically with children.

House Bill 1608, set to be heard in the Education Committee Monday, would prohibit schools from talking to kids in grades kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation, gender identity and "certain other concepts," according to the bill.

Credit: WTHR

Another bill, HB 1407, is headed to a final vote in the House.

HB 1407 would make it illegal for the Department of Child Services to step in and take a child away if a parent disagrees with a child over gender and chooses to continue raising the child as the sex they were assigned at birth or if the parent refuses to take measures to help the child alter their assigned gender.

The letter from faith leaders calls bills like 1407 and 1608, "a disgraceful attempt by a handful of politicians to score political points by harming the children, teachers and families they claim to represent."

"I don't think it's hate. I think it's a difference of opinion," said Republican House Speaker Todd Huston of the various bills.

"There are some policies that folks feel like may be the best for the state of Indiana, there's no hate for people in that community, in any way shape or form," said Senate President Pro Tempore Roderic Bray, R-District 37.

Faith leaders who signed the letter disagree and say proposed legislation shows otherwise.

"The world is hard enough, and our faith compels us, wherever we see hate rising up, to counter it," Baskerville-Burrows said.

Part of the counter to some of the bills will come Monday morning with a rally at the Statehouse in support of LGBTQ Hoosiers that will happen right before the House Education Committee hears House Bill 1608.

The bill's author, Rep. Michelle Davis, R-District 58, offered this statement about bill 1608:

"The goal of this bill is to empower Hoosier parents by reinforcing that they're in the driver's seat when it comes to introducing sensitive topics to their children. The bill would simply prohibit classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third  grade. This is commonsense legislation to support parents' fundamental rights, which shouldn't get dropped at the classroom door," Davis said.

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