Michigan GOP House Candidate Vows To Introduce ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Legislation If Elected

Michigan GOP House Candidate Vows to Introduce ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Legislation if Elected

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A Republican contender for the position of Michigan House of Representatives recently declared that if he wins, he will propose a law inspired by Florida’s "Don’t Say Gay" bill.

Jon Rocha, who has garnered the support of former President Donald Trump in the 78th District, stated that his plan aims to forbid "discussions, or distribution of materials, involving sexual orientation, gender identity, or any sexually explicit content, in the Kindergarten through 4th-grade curriculum."

Rocha further expressed his belief that young children should focus on subjects like math, science, history, and literacy. He strongly opposed what he referred to as "radical, sexual indoctrination" by adults with personal agendas, arguing that it has no place in Michigan’s education system for its youngest learners.

The newly redrawn 78th District encompasses parts of Eaton, Barry, Ionia, and Kent counties. Citizen lobbyist and small business owner Gina Johnsen, a Republican, has also announced her candidacy with a commitment to promoting transparency.

Florida’s legislation, which currently awaits GOP Governor Ron DeSantis’ approval, empowers parents to take legal action against school districts if their child is exposed to instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity that is deemed "inappropriate" for their age. Such instruction could cover anything from early childhood education through high school, according to the Florida Phoenix.

The Florida bill has faced criticism from national leaders and corporations, with President Joe Biden condemning it as a "hateful bill."

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona emphasized that all schools receiving federal funds must adhere to federal civil rights law, including Title IX provisions that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jay Kaplan, an attorney specializing in LGBTQ rights and affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed concerns about the potential negative impact of these laws on teachers and school officials.

Kaplan argued that Florida’s law is broad and vague, leaving room for ambiguity regarding the scope of classroom instruction. For instance, he posed questions about scenarios such as students with same-gender parents participating in a classroom event or discussing high-profile LGBTQ figures. He contended that the lack of clarity in the law could result in a chilling effect, limiting discussions on various topics.

Kaplan noted that a similar chilling effect is already evident in states without explicit "Don’t Say Gay" laws, recounting a recent incident where a Michigan teacher was instructed by her principal not to acknowledge or support a student who identifies as LGBTQ to avoid potential legal consequences. Kaplan linked this incident to the perception that the Florida legislation may eventually reach Michigan.

According to the Florida Phoenix, a Democratic state senator in Florida has warned that this controversial law could drive teachers away from the state.

Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, a Democrat, who is the first openly gay top statewide official in the state, recently argued in front of the Michigan Supreme Court to extend civil rights protections to LGBTQ individuals under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Nessel described the proposed legislation as one of the most detrimental actions that can be taken against LGBTQ children, as it essentially denies their existence. She posited that this denial could lead to a significant increase in suicide rates among LGBTQ youth and the children of LGBTQ parents.

Nessel also highlighted the profound positive impact that simple acknowledgement of LGBTQ individuals can have on their mental well-being, especially during their formative years.

Kaplan expressed concerns about the adverse effects of LGBTQ discriminatory legislation, emphasizing that it not only exacerbates mental health challenges but also exposes LGBTQ students to safety threats from the outside.

According to Kaplan, these laws create an environment that deems being LGBTQ as forbidden and wrong, sending a message to other kids that identifying as LGBTQ is also wrong. As a result, LGBTQ students become vulnerable to bullying, harassment, and physical harm from their peers.

Recent reports from Them, an LGBTQ magazine, reveal that at least 10 other states have introduced legislation that restricts the rights of LGBTQ individuals. Kaplan highlighted this as a distressing trend, particularly targeting LGBTQ youth.

Kaplan drew a connection between the rise of Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a Republican concern nationwide and the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation. Both issues are framed similarly and weaponized to serve political interests.

The connection between these two trends is evident, with certain groups opposing CRT, mask mandates, and policies that support LGBTQ youth in schools. Kaplan noted that these groups also strive to prohibit transgender students from participating in sports according to their gender identity.

Kaplan stressed that this legislation primarily serves as a means of political gain, rather than effective policy-making. It aims to score points and solidify political bases by attacking one of the most vulnerable groups in society — LGBTQ kids. It is crucial to denounce this for what it truly is.

Nessel noted that this strategy has been employed by the Republican Party for decades. She described it as a playbook based on cruelty and hatred, expressing her bewilderment at individuals who willingly participate in targeting vulnerable members of society. Nessel finds it deeply unsettling and incomprehensible.

She argued that these divisive wedge issues, such as LGBTQ rights, are not legitimate concerns. Instead, issues like access to medical insurance, affordable housing, clean water, and clean air should be prioritized. The lack of policies in these domains leads the Republicans to resort to divisive tactics that do not benefit anyone.

Nessel believed that voters should make these policies a defining issue in the upcoming midterm elections. As she faces reelection, she is likely to confront candidates like former House Speaker Tom Leonard, state Rep. Ryan Berman, or attorney Matthew DePerno, who all hold right-wing positions on social issues.

Nessel emphasized the importance of paying close attention to the candidates and actively participating in the voting process. She called upon allies and supporters of the LGBTQ community to recognize that this issue surpasses matters like taxes or differences on COVID relief. It boils down to acknowledging the humanity of a significant portion of the population.

Ultimately, Nessel aimed to reassure LGBTQ individuals that despite one party’s desire to erase them, they have the support of an entire political party structure in Michigan that cares about them, believes in their worth, and is prepared to fight for their rights.

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  • zakhart

    Zak Hart is an educational blogger and professor who has been writing about education for over 10 years. He has written for various publications, including The Huffington Post and Edutopia, and has been a guest lecturer at various universities. Zak is the founder and director of the Edutopia Academy, an online education program that provides teachers with resources and lessons to help them improve their teaching skills.

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