Two bills limiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, and a bill banning trans athletes from sports have passed the state Senate along party lines.
Pennsylvania Republicans capped Pride Month by continuing to target LGBTQ youth this week.
The GOP-controlled Senate approved legislation that would limit LGBTQ instruction in schools and trans athletes’ participation in sports.
The bills passed along party lines and are headed to the House for a vote. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will veto any anti-LGBTQ legislation that comes to his desk.
Two of the bills, from Republican state Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin, both of Lancaster, mimic similar legislation passed in Florida this year, which critics quickly dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
One bill would prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students.
The other measure would require educators to identify sexually explicit content in the curriculum, classroom materials, and books. Educators would have to notify parents if a child’s coursework or a book they’d like to check out from a library contains sexually explicit content, and parents could opt their children out of viewing the material.
Democrats slammed the bills during contentious floor debate as further harming an already marginalized population of LGBTQ students in schools.
“This is not Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) said during debate. “It is worse.”
Under the legislation, schools must notify parents about any changes to a student’s services and monitoring, unless it can be “reasonably demonstrated” that notifying parents would “result in abuse or abandonment of a minor.”
With parent or guardian permission, school personnel can provide support to a student who has “initiated communication” with educators about sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill would also allow parents to sue school districts for violation of the law.
Wolf’s LGBTQ Affairs Commission has criticized the legislation as a “cruel attempt to politicize LGBTQ people and deny their humanity in order to score cheap political points.”
Opponents attacked the bill on sexually explicit content in curriculum, classroom materials and books as a “book ban,” saying it was an attack on LGBTQ people.
Democrats characterized the bill as homophobic and transphobic.
“Make no mistake, despite repeated denials, homophobia and transphobia are at the heart of this legislation, and a targeted attack on LGBTQ-centered books and an attempt to erase LGBTQ people will occur if this happens,” Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery) said.
While Democratic nominee for governor Josh Shapiro is a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and has said he would veto any discriminatory bill if elected, that won’t be the case if Republican nominee Doug Mastriano is successful in November.
Mastriano likens LGBTQ-friendly cirriculum to grooming and indoctrination.
A third bill that would prohibit transgender girls and women from playing in youth and collegiate sports in a way that matches their gender was headed for a veto by Wolf after passing the Senate on Wednesday.
Lawmakers in other states such as Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Utah passed similar legislation recently, bringing the total number of states with laws banning young transgender athletes playing on girls teams to 18, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Legislation that would ban trans girls and women from competing in school sports is still pending in a number of other states.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.