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Texas bills look to ban LGBTQ-related lessons, discussions until high school

Some bills seek to limit or ban gender-affirming care for transgender kids while others aim to limit classroom instruction about gender identity.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas state lawmakers have filed bills that would ban discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools until high school. 

The proposed laws are part of a handful of legislation surrounding LGBTQ+ Texans filed by conservative lawmakers in the weeks leading up to the state's 2023 legislative session, which began Tuesday.

Lawmakers still have until March to file bills.

State Rep. Jared Patterson of Dallas proposed House Bill 1155 on Jan. 3. If passed, the bill would stop any "school district, open-enrollment charter school, or district or charter school employee" from providing "instruction regarding sexual orientation or gender identity … to students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade."

HB 1155 also seeks to stop any lessons on sexual orientation or gender identity that are taught "in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate." This could potentially leave room for banning LGBTQ-related discussions even after eighth grade.

Houston-area State Rep. Steve Toth also introduced a bill, House Bill 631, seeking to ban sexual orientation and gender identity discussions in public schools up to fifth grade. HB 1155 and HB 631 both mirror Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" law, which states that "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade three or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

On the other side of the aisle, State Sen. Nathan Johnson, a Democrat from Dallas, is proposing that lawmakers update the state code to include and recognize LGBTQ+ relationships. He is also proposing a state constitutional amendment to repeal language that doesn’t reflect marriage equality.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said Thursday a select committee he formed in 2021 will address a number of social issues that conservatives are pushing this legislative session.

During a media briefing at the Texas State Capitol, Phelan was asked for his take on GOP legislation surrounding LGBTQ Texans, specifically a proposed ban on gender-affirming care for transgender children.

"It's [going to] be part of a much larger issue," Phelan said. "I created a select committee on youth health and safety for this specific reason, dealing with all these issues, whether it's the issue you highlight or whether it's issues in the classroom."

Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez told KVUE on Thursday that the dignity of those in the LGBTQ+ community is not up for debate, and the organization intends to fight for the rights of its community.

The organization steadily keeps track of LGBTQ-related bills filed in the Texas Legislature.

"We're defiant against everything that we're experiencing there," Martinez said, referring to bills filed in the Legislature. "These are attacks on our liberty, our safety and the respect of our neighbors."

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