Florida has attracted considerable attention for its “parental rights in education” law. It is not a new legislative concept; for example, a current political candidate in New Hampshire twelve years ago was pushing legislation to ban the “pro-gay” curriculum from the classroom. But currently, these gag laws have swept the country, with similar legislation popping up in at least a dozen other states. Each bill has its own particular language; how does the legislation compare? Consider how several states approach the issue.

Florida’s law understands this language:

Classroom instruction by school staff or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity may not take place in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not appropriate for age or development of students in accordance with state standards.

That means the bill doesn’t technically target LGBTQ content, though it does raise questions about what it may ban. After all, heterosexuality is a sexual orientation, and “boy” and “girl” are gender identities.

Alabama

HB 322 started out as a bathroom bill (Sponsor representative Scott Stadthagen said, “Almost every school district in this state is facing this problem with opposite sexes wanting to use opposite bathrooms. I find that This is a safety issue. This is for the protection of our students.”) It was amended to include wording stating that anyone teaching K-5 “must not participate in class discussions or providing classroom instruction regarding sexual orientation or gender identity” that is not “age or developmentally appropriate. In this law, “engage” is a problematic word, suggesting that even if students bring up the topics, teachers should refuse to pursue the discussion.

Georgia

Georgia’s SB 613 seems dead for this year, but it’s still worth noting. Its wording prohibits schools from “promoting, coercing or encouraging primary school sexual orientation or gender identity classes,” but the bill is unique in that it sought to extend these prohibitions to all schools. private or non-public that receive money from the state. Recent voucher bills, like the one that struggled in the Georgia Legislature this year, typically include a non-interference requirement to ensure that government money does not come with government strings attached; SB 613 goes directly against that.

Indiana

An Indiana anti-CRT bill includes this clause.

A student enrolled in a public educational institution will not be required to undergo any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.

Several states follow this particular model.

Iowa.

SF 2024 prohibits any “gender identity instruction” in kindergarten classrooms. From the 1st to the 6th year, such teaching can only be provided with the consent of the parents. Iowa defines “gender identity” as “a person’s gender-related identity, regardless of the sex assigned to the person at birth.”

Kentucky

Another anti-CRT bill with a provision on sexual diversity training

No student enrolled in a public post-secondary institution will be required to undergo any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.

Louisiana

Louisiana is considering a short and sweeping bill. No teacher or presenter may “cover” the topics of gender identity or sexual orientation “in classroom discussion or instruction” from K-8. Additionally, no teacher, school employee or presenter “may discuss their own sexual orientation or gender identity with students” in grades K-12.

An amendment clarifies that “class discussion” means a discussion held between the start and end of class, but beyond the curious choice of “sound”, the bill raises many questions. Should teachers never talk about their family life? Would family photos be banned on Louisiana teachers’ desks? And what exactly does it mean to “cover” a subject? A teacher whose lesson plan indicated that she was going to “cover” a subject would be rightly criticized by a supervisor for being vague.

Missouri

Missouri’s anti-CRT bill includes the diversity training clause, this time for all public school students.

No public school student will be required to undergo any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.

Ohio

HB 616 responds to anti-CRT concerns and follows Florida in banning “any curriculum or instructional materials on [sic] sexual orientation or gender identity”. It goes further by also prohibiting any such instruction for students in grades 4-12 that “is not age or developmentally appropriate”. As with the Florida law, this bill arms those vague terms by giving any citizen the power to file a lawsuit against any school district or teacher they believe has broken the law.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma has another example of an anti-CRT bill with the ban on diversity training.

No student enrolled at any institution of higher education within the Oklahoma State higher education system will be required to engage in any form of mandatory gender training or counseling or sexual diversity;

Like many of these pieces of legislation, this one is being challenged in court.

Caroline from the south.

A bill introduced last November consolidates LGBTQ elements with elements included by many states in anticritical race theory legislation. It prohibits requiring an individual to “affirm, accept, adopt or adhere” to concepts such as “the existence of genders other than masculine and feminine”, gender fluidity, non-binary pronouns, and that race and gender are “social constructs”. It also indicates that state-funded entities cannot

subject minors under the age of eighteen to instructions, presentations, discussions, advice or documents in any medium involving the following controversial and inappropriate subjects, which are reserved for parents and legal guardians to discuss and explain to their children in accordance with their family values:

The list includes lifestyles, sexual acts or practices, and gender identity or lifestyles.

Tennessee

Tennessee’s HB 800 is one of the most repressive bills in the country. No public or charter school in the state would be permitted to use textbooks or instructional materials that “promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles.”

A proposed amendment allows schools to keep books they purchased before July 2022. However, this is a real Don’t Say Gay Bill – that word ‘address’ goes far beyond ” promote” in a world in which LGBTQ issues can’t even be mentioned.

Texas

Texas doesn’t have a bill in the works, but Lt. Governor Dan Patrick would like to have one like Florida’s and since their legislation won’t kick in again until next spring, he’s requested hearings from the education committee to address the issue.

Although the general concerns expressed are similar, these bills vary considerably. They often rely on ill-defined language. For example, while people may be able to define the extreme ends of the continuum, “age-appropriate” does not draw a clear, clear line.

Many states bundle their Don’t Say Gay language with their anti-CRT bills. Some states are moving lightly, with the oft-copied injunction against diversity training, while others like Tennessee and Louisiana would literally ban saying the word “gay” in a classroom. And in these cases, the choice of words matters; there is a big difference between “promoting” something and “normalizing” or “fixing”.

Some of these bills will not pass, but as long as there are political points to be made, the language will return. Stay tuned and keep watching your state capital.