Lawmakers in Iowa, Florida, Texas Target LGBTQ+ Students


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LGBTQ+ rainbow flag flies over a clear background.

Murray, NEB- Students across the country are seeing the latest pieces of culture war legislation impact their lives and education. Multiple states including Florida, Texas, and Iowa have instituted laws or issued orders restricting the civil liberties of LGBTQ+ students and restricting the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in the last year.

The State of Florida recently passed legislation that has become known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill would prohibit “classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. An amendment to the bill, which was later withdrawn, would require schools to inform parents if a student comes out as LGBTQ+ to a teacher or staff member. Civil liberty and youth health leaders have called out this bill as dangerous for young people. They say it tells young people that being themselves is not acceptable. The legislation also led to massive protests and student walkouts in schools across Florida. Despite the criticism, it is now expected to be signed by the Governor of Florida.

In Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state after Governor Greg Abbot signed an order which instructed child protective services to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse. Abbot’s order labeled gender affirming care or parenting as child abuse. A District Judge in the state of Texas struck down the order but not before it struck fear in the hearts of transgender youth in the state.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill last week which bans transgender girls and women from playing female sports. The supporters of the bill say it’s meant to protect the integrity of girl’s high school sports, however, students, civil liberties advocates, and youth health leaders have criticized the bill. Once again, this legislation is part of a patchwork of efforts across the country that target LGBTQ+ students.

Nebraska students are not exempt from political targeting in the latest culture war. Last year the Nebraska Department of Education proposed health education standards which included gender and sexual oritentation inclusive legislation. The standards were met with fierce backlash from folks outside of the educational community. Students, including many LGBTQ+ students, spoke in favor of the standards but they were ultimately scrapped. Nebraska State Senator Megan Hunt of Omaha told The Prowl. “Parents across the country are looking to national, state, and district leaders to support our nation’s students, help them recover from the pandemic, and provide them with the academic and mental health supports they need. Instead, lawmakers across the country are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need.”

From Nebaska to Texas, Iowa to Florida, states across the country are participating in a new culture war against LGBTQ+ students. Some have already enacted these laws and students are already being impacted, but in some places, folks are still fighting to stop similar legislation from being enacted. Vigilance and student dissent will be the key in determining what happens next. Senator Hunt had this advice, “Students can get involved in these issues by contacting their local school board, organizing community support, circulating petitions, and contacting their local representatives in support of equitable policies. Our voice is the most powerful tool we have; one that no one can take away from us.”