Respect Equality

Ohio introduces ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

The bill would also prohibit the promotion of “divisive concepts” in the classroom and the workplace.
(Maskot/Getty Images)

Story at a glance

  • Two Ohio House Republicans on Monday introduced a bill borrowing language from Florida’s recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prevents teachers from engaging in instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • The Ohio bill also aims to outlaw the promotion of “divisive concepts” like critical race theory and The New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project.”

  • Rep. Jean Schmidt (R), one of the bill’s sponsors, on Tuesday refused to answer questions from local reporters about the bill.

Two Ohio Republicans on Monday introduced a bill strikingly similar to Florida’s recently passed Parental Rights in Education law, which has been dubbed by its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The Ohio bill also borrows language from a new South Dakota law which outlaws the promotion of “divisive concepts” in places like the classroom and the workplace.

Under Ohio’s House Bill 616, introduced Monday by state Reps. Mike Loychik and Jean Schmidt, public kindergarten through third grade teachers would not be permitted to “teach, use, or provide any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Educators of grades four through 12 under the bill would be barred from engaging in instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity in a manner that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

The bill in that way mirrors the Florida law, which bars public school teachers from educating their students about sexual orientation or gender identity in any manner that may be considered inappropriate.

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The Ohio bill would also prevent public school educators from using classroom materials or curricula that “promote or endorse divisive or inherently racist concepts,” including Critical Race Theory, which addresses systemic racism in the U.S. and has been hotly debated by lawmakers on the right.

Other “divisive concepts” include intersectional theory; diversity, equity and inclusion in learning outcomes; and what the bill refers to as “inherited racial guilt.” 

Educators would also be prohibited from teaching The 1619 Project, an initiative launched by the New York Times Magazine in 2019 which, according to its website, “illuminates the legacy of slavery in the contemporary United States, and highlights the contributions of Black Americans to every aspect of American society.”

The Ohio bill uses language similar to that used in South Dakota’s House Bill 1012, which touts itself as an act to “protect students and employees at institutions of higher education from divisive concepts” that may make some people feel “guilt” or “discomfort” on account of their race. 

The initial draft of the South Dakota bill, which was signed into law late last month by Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who helped write the legislation in December, had said its primary intention was to “protect students from critical race theory.”

On Tuesday, Schmidt refused to answer questions from media about the bill she is sponsoring, asking that she please not be “harassed.”

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