Missouri Senate to consider legislation dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:50 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - It’s a bill that is not sitting well with the LGBTQ community. They’re already comparing it to a Florida bill from last year dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The bill formerly called the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act prohibits any employee or contractor for a Missouri public or charter school from discussing sexual orientation or gender ideology.

The only exception is if the school employee is a licensed mental health provider that also has parental permission.

“It is significantly harmful. We see an uptick in mental health crises just when these bills are talked about, let alone when they go into effect,” said Shira Berkowitz, senior policy and advocacy director at PROMO, an LGBTQ public policy and advocacy organization.

Andrew Koenig (R-St. Louis County), who leads the Education & Workforce Development Committee, tells News 4 some conversations are not appropriate for schools.

“I think there are definitely concerns from parents that this indoctrination of gender ideology is happening in the schools,” said Koenig.

There are countless examples of how this could come into play in the classroom.

One example is a student telling a teacher they’re being bullied because they’re LGTBQ. The teacher wouldn’t be allowed to do much.

Others have concerns about LGBTQ parents and if they’d have access to their children’s educators.

“Often what lawmakers who are creating bills like this are doing so out of their own fears, or fears their constituents have planted in their minds, that we should be afraid of LGBTQ kids or we should be afraid of transgender kids, we don’t know who they are,” said Berkowitz.

News 4 reached out to bill sponsor State Sen. Mike Moon (R) for an interview but his staff told us in the late afternoon he wasn’t available Monday. But we did find a recent newsletter he wrote that said “The intent is to reduce or eliminate the possibility of encouraging minors to undergo sex changes or initiate hormone therapy without the approval of parents.”

Berkowitz sharply disagrees with that reasoning.

“It’s a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender,” said Berkowitz. “The fact that any transgender youth or adult can be swayed to be so by anybody else is just a fallacy.”

Sen. Koenig says the bill is likely to get out of committee with changes. One of those possible changes is ensuring history, such as U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage, could be taught in schools.

“We want discussions around those decisions in classrooms, especially at the high school level,” said Koenig.

If passed the bill would go into effect in August.