A Montana bill would outlaw schools from punishing students who "misgender" their trans peers, the Associated Press reported.
What are the details?
The proposal is co-sponsored by more than two dozen Republican lawmakers and says it's not discrimination when students use transgender classmates' legal names or refer to them by their sex, the AP said.
The bill's main sponsor — GOP state Rep. Brandon Ler — said Wednesday during a hearing that his children live on a farm and ranch and “have learned from a very young age that cows are cows and bulls are bulls" and that gender isn't open to interpretation, the outlet reported.
“Children should not be forced to call somebody something they’re not,” Ler added, according to the AP.
The outlet said opponents of the bill acknowledge that students who accidentally use wrong pronouns or names shouldn't be punished, but schools should be allowed to respond to "misgendering" and "deadnaming" done on purpose, perhaps through an anti-bullying policy.
SK Rossi, testifying on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign — the mammoth LGBTQ rights organization — said that refusing to acknowledge a transgender student’s preferred name and pronouns is bullying, the AP reported.
“The problem with the bill is that it takes away the ability of schools and teachers and administrators to intervene when something becomes cruel, before it becomes physical,” Rossi said, according to the outlet.
Olivia Hunt, policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equity, said the bill apparently is the only legislation of its kind in the United States this year, the AP reported.
“This would make Montana unique in enshrining the right to be bigoted toward or the right to bully trans children in the state code,” Hunt added, according to the outlet.
More from the AP:
It comes amid a wave of legislation this year in Montana and other conservative states seeking to limit or ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. Montana’s Senate passed a ban on gender-affirming medical care or surgery for minors on Wednesday. [...]
People representing educational organizations, pediatricians, parents of transgender children and students testified against the bill, saying it would lead to unchallenged bullying and harassment as well as anxiety and depression among transgender students.
Layla Riggs told lawmakers about defending friends who were being bullied because they are transgender or gender nonconforming. Someone once threw rocks at her and a nonbinary friend after school, she said.
“School is supposed to be a place where you are accepted and a place where your safety is supposed to be one of the top priorities,” Riggs testified, according to the outlet. “With the passage of this bill, even the illusion of safety for transgender and nonbinary students would be gone.”
Jeff Laszloffy with the Montana Family Foundation was the lone supporter of the bill to testify in favor of it, telling lawmakers it would protect students from possibly facing civil lawsuits over using the wrong pronoun or name, the AP said.
How are folks reacting?
There are more than 2,500 comments as of Thursday morning under the AP story that appeared on Yahoo News, and while certainly there are opponents to the bill, others say it's protecting students' First Amendment rights:
- "As a freedom of speech issue, this is a whole new twist. There is a big difference between recognizing the right to say what you want (with some exception) and being forced to say something," one commenter noted. "This law would prevent a whole new angle being pushed by the left. Requiring people to use certain words is not something we do anywhere in society...that is a whole new violation of free speech. It is literally requiring everyone to believe what most people don't believe. It would actually force words in your mouth that you don't want to say. It is not defensible."
- "It is not bullying to call someone by their birth gender; it is bullying to force someone to accept a preferred gender," another commenter said. "I have no problem calling someone by their legal name, so if they have had a legal name change, I will address them by that name. It would be bullying if they tried to force me to call them a name that is not their legal name. They have no right to force me or anybody else to acknowledge their fantasy."
- "'In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control,'" one commenter wrote, quoting conservative British cultural critic Theodore Dalrymple.
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