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Missouri attempts to pass “Don’t Say Gay” bill of its own


By Scottie Thomaston

There’s a new trend happening across the country in which legislators attempt to silence people who are LGBT via passage of “Don’t Say Gay” laws – erasing any school discussions of LGBT people and even refusing to step in and stop anti-LGBT bullying through educating students about the harms it causes. In Tennessee, their “Don’t Say Gay” bill, authored by state senator Stacey Campfield, passed out of committee a week ago.

Now Missouri is joining in on this tactic. They’ve referred to committee their own “Don’t Say Gay” bill:

170.370. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.

This bill appears to be broader than Tennessee’s. Tennessee recently advanced a measure protecting Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools, but it appears that this measure in Missouri could potentially ban those groups, since they’re an “extracurricular activity” that “discusses sexual orientation… other than human reproduction.” This would be an enormous problem because these groups can often be the only welcoming place inside a school environment. And since they allow gay and straight students alike to talk to each other about these issues, they provide a great educational opportunity. Banning them could cause serious harm:

In its entirety, the bill would not only outlaw any discussion of homosexuality in public schools, but it would also ban any GLBT groups on school grounds.

That’s something Hattie Svoboda-Stel, a junior at Saint Teresa’s Academy, said would give bullies a free pass to target gay students.

“If they’re unable to talk to about sexuality, or the fact that people are not straight, then if someone’s being bullied because of the sexual orientation, teachers wouldn’t be able to stick up or explain the situation or why it’s not ok,” she said.

It may also ban sex education except for heterosexual sex, and it could ban discussions of anti-LGBT bullying and teachers’ attempts to intervene to protect LGBT students. It could ban discussions of IVF. The bill has so far attracted 19 GOP cosponsors.


  • 1. Sagesse  |  April 23, 2012 at 10:06 am


  • 2. Steve  |  April 23, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Why don’t you just give LGBTs separate entrances into buildings, their own bathrooms. How about yellow stars so we can clearly identify them?

  • 3. Phillip K  |  April 23, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I was rather surprised when I read about this. I'm a Missourian and haven't seen any local news casts mention it at all.

  • 4. Mackenzie  |  April 23, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Being from Missouri as well, I was pissed when I heard about this last week. I of course sent out a few letters. However, around 19 MO House members have sponsored this bill. Even though they control the House and Senate, this bill has very little chance of getting anywhere. Still pissed as hell however.

  • 5. Bob  |  April 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Since Gay-Straight Alliances have repeatedly been defended successfully under federal law, how could the proposed Missouri law stand a chance of being upheld? The only option would be for the state to ban all extra-curricular clubs. I doubt it would take even a half-way decent attorney much trouble to demonstrate that a blanket ban on discussions of sexual orientation in a forum such as a GSA would not be defensible since discussions of sexual orientation, particularly where issues of bullying are involved, go far beyond discussions of sex. There's a a complete overreach here. While a law focused on what classroom curriculum might (unfortunately) stand up in court, going beyond that is probably just an invitation to be sued successfully.

  • 6. Lymis  |  April 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    That's certainly one huge area of overreach, but this is saying that an entire class of people cannot even be mentioned, by government order, because the majority doesn't want them discussed.

    Gay people exist. We are citizens. Has there ever been a law that was upheld stating that a group of citizens could not even be acknowledged as existing, much less in a public school setting?

    How would a "Don't say Jew" or "Don't say Black" law go over? This goes so far past the conditions of Romer v Evans that it's laughable.

  • 7. Alan_Eckert  |  April 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    The way I read this bill is that homosexuality could still be discussed. Science tells us that homosexuality is a normal deviation in regards to human reproduction. Sexuality is an important part of reproduction, and there is science to back it up.

  • 8. Steve  |  April 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    But those are the wrong, evil, liberal, communist scientists. The "correct" "scientists" tell them something else

  • 9. Deeelaaach  |  April 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    It sounds like pretty soon they might want to tell us which scientists we can listen to – by putting it into law. Yes, this sounds farfetched, but is it really? They want us to disappear, to go away, and some of them would like to imprison us, kill us, exile us or have us kill ourselves. Yes, I realize this may be a minority viewpoint, but it is a slippery slope. The first step is silencing us. All because they are willfully ignorant in some or many cases. They may silence us for a time, but the first amendment will hopefully protect us in the end. So I do have a question: if these pass, can they be challenged on first amendment grounds, or does anyone have plans to do just that? I would think they could be challenged on those very grounds.

  • 10. Straght4Equality  |  April 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    If it outlaws discussion of homosexuality does it also ban discussion of heterosexuality? How could it ban discussions of IVF since it permits scientific instruction concerning human reproduction? Terrible law in any case, but there must be more to in than the one paragraph (170.370) shown here. Anyone know?

  • 11. Leo  |  April 23, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I also don't see how it bans discussions of IVF. By its own terms, the law bans discussion of sexual orientation as opposed to homosexuality, which to me suggests that you can't talk about some people being straight and some people being gay (outside a biology classroom). Thus, it's superficially neutral, but only superficially, of course. Suppressing open discussion of sexual orientation has the practical effect of marginalizing sexual minorities, just like suppressing open discussion of religion has the practical effect of marginalizing religious minorities.

  • 12. mark  |  April 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    So where are the law suites based on the 1st amendment of free speech? C'mon HRC and Lamda Legal

  • 13. Straght4Equality  |  April 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I think courts have ruled in the past that rights and freedoms for students in schools can be limited.

  • 14. Bob  |  April 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    They have. However I also believe that those limits are themselves subject to limitations. In particular they can't be based upon viewpoint. So for example you could not, in the classroom, outlaw discussion of one political party's views while permitting another political party's views. You cannot by law limit discussions on comparative religion to certain "approved" religions; you either discuss all of them or none of them.

  • 15. Bill S.  |  April 24, 2012 at 7:33 am

    There are four recognized categories of student speech:

    (1) vulgar, lewd, offensive, or obscene speech under the Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraiser standard

    (2) speech which promotes illegal conduct under the Morse v. Frederick standard

    (3) school-sponsored speech which relates to pedagogical concerns under the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier standard

    (4) pure student expression under the Tinker v. Des Moines standard

    Categories 1–3 can be regulated by the school. Category 4 cannot be r regulated unless the school can show that the speech in question would "materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school," not speech with which the school administration merely disagrees (Tinker v. Des Moines).

    Students would be free to talk about sexual orientation and any action by the school to the contrary will result in a lawsuit.

    Then there is the matter of the federal Equal Access Act. If a school allows extra-curricular activities it must allow ALL activities (unless those which would pose the above "material distraction," such as, for example a KKK chapter in the school), including a gay-straight alliance, and it must treat all groups equally.

    Then there is an Equal Protection Argument to be made. The law divides the citizens of Missouri into two classes: heterosexual and homosexual, and allows only discussions of heterosexual relationships to be discussed, thus marginalizing homosexuals with no apparent basis in law except to express disapproval and animus towards gays as a class. This is not a rational basis for a law and will not uphold it under a 14th Amendment challenge.

  • 16. Eric  |  April 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Doesn't this bill ban prom?

    "…extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school."

  • 17. Bill S.  |  April 24, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Any interference with a same-sex couple's right to attend prom together will result in legal action taken against the school under Free Speech, Peaceful Assembly, and Equal Protection Clause challenges. See Fricke v. Lynch and McMillen v. Itawamba County School District.

  • 18. Mackenzie  |  April 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Just got word today that the Chairman of the Missouri House Education Committee will not bring this legislation up for consideration.

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