Respect Equality

GOP state senator in New Jersey introduces ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

The measure would prevent New Jersey students through high school from learning about either sexual orientation or gender identity.

Story at a glance

  • New Jersey state Sen. Edward Durr Jr. (R) this week introduced a bill that would bar state educators from addressing sexual orientation or gender identity in their classrooms.

  • Students in the seventh through 12th grade will need written permission from their parents or guardians to participate in classroom discussions related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has in the past accused state Republicans of taking up similar efforts to “score political points.”

A state Senator in New Jersey this week introduced a bill prohibiting kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers from engaging in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity. Seventh- through 12th-grade students may only be educated on either topic if consent is given by a parent or guardian.

“Any student whose parent or guardian does not provide prior written consent shall be excused from that portion of the course where such instruction is provided and no penalties as to credit or graduation shall result therefrom,” reads a portion of the bill introduced Monday by state Sen. Edward Durr Jr., a Republican and former commercial truck driver who made headlines last year when he defeated former New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) — at that time one of the most powerful elected officials in the state.

Under the bill, a parent or guardian may take legal action against their child’s school if their child has been taught about sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent. If a school district or employee “knowingly violates” the proposed law, the state Office of the Attorney General may seek an injunction.

New Jersey’s Education Commission may also withhold state funds from any school district found to be in violation of the law, which if passed would apply to the first full school year following its enactment.

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Durr’s office did not immediately respond to Changing America’s request for comment.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) office declined to comment on the legislation, but Murphy has recently pushed back against other efforts to limit discussions related to sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s classrooms, making the bill’s passage unlikely.

“I don’t like the fact that some are using this as an opportunity to score political points and to further divide us,” Murphy said earlier this month in response to pushback on new social and sexual health education standards that are set to take effect this fall. “I say that on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Let’s everybody not use this to divide us.”

Legislators in dozens of states this year have argued that lessons related to sexual orientation and gender identity don’t belong in the classroom and are “inappropriate” topics that are too mature for children. Laws barring educators from addressing either sexual orientation or gender identity in a manner that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for their students have already been passed in Florida and Alabama.

LGBTQ+ advocates have pushed back on those arguments, warning that restrictive curriculum bills will harm LGBTQ+ youth, who already experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicidality.

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