The final day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session saw the passage of a bill similar to Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” law, which has been dubbed by progressive opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
House Bill 322, sponsored by State Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle), instructs public schools to require students to utilize the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender.
According to Stadthagen, the legislation was necessary due to threats of lawsuits posed to public schools by attorneys representing transgender students who desire to use the restroom according to the gender of which they identify. The lawmaker also advised that there are students in his district who have expressed concerns over using the restroom alongside those who are not of the same biological sex.
The bill passed the House in February by a vote of 74-24 with one abstention.
During debate on the Senate floor Thursday, an amendment was offered to Stadthagen’s bill by State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) to include language that disallows the instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity to students grades K-5 in Alabama public schools.
In a show of legislative power, Senate Republicans invoked cloture to close debate of the bill, which ended Democrats’ attempts to stall a vote. As a result, the bill sailed through the Senate by a vote of 26-5.
After meeting Senate approval, the bill made its way back to the lower chamber, where it was met with a highly critical response from Democratic lawmakers.
State Rep. Juandalynn Givan (R-Birmingham) went as far as accusing her Republican colleagues of being prejudiced against gay people.
While engaged in debate with Stadthagen, Givan, who is known to be one of the lower chamber’s most progressive lawmakers, asserted that the Republican had “some real homophobic issues going on.”
Givan later alleged, “You hate the fact that people are gay. You hate the fact that people are transgender… You all hate the fact that men choose to dress as women.”
In voicing their opposition to the bill, multiple Democratic members of the body referred to Alabama Media Group’s reporting of the legislation, which coined it as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
It should be noted that the amendment’s language does not include the word “gay.”
Despite Democratic lawmakers’ concerns and unfavorable in-state media coverage of the legislation, the House concurred with the upper chamber’s amendment and passed the bill by a vote of 70-26.
For Shelnutt, shielding K-5 students from being exposed to “inappropriate” sexual instruction is “commonsense.” The senator also indicated that Republican lawmakers acted to ensure parental involvement in their children’s education.
“Parents’ rights have been progressively under fire in America, but in Alabama, we are making it crystal clear that we stand for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in their children’s education, development, and upbringing,” said Shelnutt in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “This is a significant step forward to protect our children’s health and well-being and allow parents to have a role in their child’s education, a right that every parent deserves. This bill supports the commonsense views of everyday Alabamians by preventing schools from pushing ideologies or agendas on children who would be forced to listen.”
The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey to be signed into law.
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL