Indiana 'Don’t Say Gay' bill passes out of the Senate following floor debate, questioning
A bill that would limit discussions of human sexuality in early learning classrooms passed through the Senate on Monday. The bill received criticism from opponents – coining it as a “slate of hate” – a group of anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed by lawmakers during this legislative session.
Sen. Andrea Hunley (D-Indianapolis) questioned the bill during a committee discussion. She said the definition of human sexuality is too vague.
“So there's no definition?” Hunley said. “So, we say that we're prohibited from teaching human sexuality instruction, but we're not defining what that instruction is.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stacy Donato (R-Logansport) said there’s no definition for human sexuality in Indiana code.
The bill also contains a portion that would require parents to be notified about requested changes for a student's names and pronouns, and the removal of other portions of the bill.
Hunley questioned Donato on this portion of the bill.
“I know that we've talked a lot about the importance of family partnerships,” she said. “And family partnerships are so important to help kids make it through school in a strong, self-assured way. And so I'm just trying to see where in this bill the family partnership is, where right now it just looks like a teacher is going to come in the middle of a child having what could be a very important, life-changing conversation with their parent.”
Donato responded by saying Hunley could “read the bill.”
HB 1608 would still require teachers to notify parents if students request a name, title or pronoun change in the classroom. The bill previously required parental consent for schools to honor the request for a student’s name or pronoun changes.
This part was taken out, but Donato said simply notifying the parents of these changes would give parents enough rights to choose how they are involved in a student’s decision-making process.
“As a parent, if I was notified, I would get involved,” she said. “That would be the part of a parent being notified, but it would be the parent's choice.”
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues throughout the legislative session. And follow along with our bill tracker.
Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) testified against the entire bill – but specifically this part. He said it puts LGBTQ+ youth in an uncomfortable position.
“It’s simple respect — just call the kids by the name they want to go by,” Ford said.
Ford is the only openly LGBTQ+ member of the Indiana General Assembly. He said he would’ve been harmed if this bill was in place when he was a student – and emphasized it would further harm LGBTQ+ youth in Indiana.
“We are second in the nation for LGBTQ+ youth suicide,” he said. “Meanwhile, here in Indiana, we are filing more than two dozen bills with anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric just this year.”
Ford also said the human sexuality portion of the bill seems unnecessary.
“You heard the exchange between Senator Hundley and Senator Donato,” he said. “Where is this happening in our state? Not a single legislator or person testifying could name a classroom, school, or even school corporation where this is happening. Not a single one.”
Ford made one final plea for the group not to pass the bill.
“If this party truly wanted to protect children and literally keep them from dying, then we could do that today,” he said. “We could do that by voting down this bill.”
Donato maintained that the bill is a way to “ensure schools and parents are working together to keep their kids successful.”
Three Republicans joined Senate Democrats in opposing the bill it passed 37-12. It now heads back to the House to approve the changes made in the Senate.