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Indiana gender identity bill passes Indiana House

Teachers in Indiana public schools could be required to tell parents if a student changes their gender identity or preferred name.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill passed the House Thursday.

Teachers in Indiana public schools could be required to tell parents if a student changes their gender identity or preferred name under the bill.

The parental notification proposal was among several amendments to House Bill 1068, which started out more closely resembling Florida legislation enacted in March 2022. The so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill drew intense national scrutiny from those who argue it marginalizes LGBTQ people. Proponents say the measure is reasonable because parents, not teachers, should handle such subjects with their children.

The original Indiana bill would have prohibited teachers from teaching kindergarteners to third graders about topics related to gender identity and sexuality. It was amended to limit the banned topics solely to sexual education — something already uncommon in early grades.

NOTE: The video above is a previous report about the debate in the Statehouse ahead of the bill's vote out of committee.

"The goal of House Bill 1608 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," said the bill's author, Republican Rep. Michelle Davis.

Other supporters agreed with Davis' notion.

"A teacher should never be forced to abandon their beliefs about the meaning of male or female just to keep their jobs," said Matt Sharp with the Alliance Defending Freedom.

A vociferous crowd lingered outside the House chamber Monday through hours of testimony, cheering opponents of the measure and booing Republican lawmakers who back it.

Opponents of the bill said it would alienate LGBTQ students, particularly transgender youth, and possibly force kids to come out to their parents. 

"It's a name. It's just a name. It's a name. You guys are fighting over kids' names. Children's names. You should be ashamed," shouted one man during the discussion. That was before Indiana State Police escorted him out of the House Chamber.

Haras Shirley, a transgender man who testified Monday, said the House legislation is "a direct conflict of interest to what I'm sworn to do" for students as a school resource officer at an Indianapolis high school.

"I will continue to be a beacon for my students, no matter the cost," Shirley said.

Indiana's bill would only apply to public schools and would prohibit them from disciplining teachers or staff who use "a name, pronoun, title, or other word to identify a student that is consistent with the student's legal name."

"This is some common sense legislation to support transparency and parents' fundamental rights, which shouldn’t get dropped at the classroom door," Davis said Monday.

But Chris McGrath, a teacher from Lafayette, Indiana, disagreed.

"How do I not have the right to compel (a school) to call my child a name that I told them that I want my child to be called?" McGrath asked. "I could be insisting that they use the name that she's got right now, and that they use she/her pronouns. How can I not compel the institution to do that?"

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