Texas Bill Would Ban School Instruction, Guidance, or Activities Related to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

Plus: Naked Feminism, marijuana legalization in Minnesota, and more...


A Texas education bill would outlaw "instruction, guidance, activities, or programming regarding sexual orientation or gender identity to students enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade." The proposal comes in the form of a substitution to H.B. 890, a narrower bill related to parental rights in public schools.

Critics are portraying it as an even more extreme version of a Florida proposal that opponents dubbed the "don't say gay" law, one that could even ban student LGBTQ clubs in Texas high schools.

H.B. 890 passed the Texas House of Representatives unanimously in April and is now being considered in the state's Senate. As introduced, the bill laid out a process by which school "personnel, students or the parents or guardians of students, and members of the public may obtain a hearing from the district administrators and the board regarding a complaint." It stated that this process must include an initial administrative hearing and the opportunity to appeal an initial administrative decision, and that complaints must be resolved in a timely manner.

Originally, the bill "was meant to create this lovely communication process so that we could lodge complaints and have an organized system for them to be handled across the state, and it was unanimously passed by the House; there was not one single nay vote in the House," Kristin Braun, a priest and parent of two Texas high school students, told CBS' Austin affiliate.

Last week, state Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–The Woodlands) introduced a substitute to H.B. 890, which was voted out of the Senate Committee on Education 10–3.

Creighton's version is a much longer and more elaborate bill, touching on everything from school district transfers to schools withholding information about children from their parents, biometric data collection, and instruction regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

It first states that "the fundamental rights granted to parents by their Creator and upheld by the United States Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and the laws of this state…may not be infringed on by any public elementary or secondary school or state governmental entity" unless necessary to further a compelling state interest and narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.

That sounds reasonable. And yet…while upholding parents' rights, Creighton's version of H.B. 890 would seem to infringe on children's rights in negative ways.

For instance, it says that school districts may not "withhold information from a parent regarding the parent's child" and that they must inform parents of "any change in services provided to or monitoring of the student related to the student's mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being." This could be read to require school counselors and other staff to report to parents if a student of any age talks to them about mental health issues, gender issues, struggles at home, sexuality, contraception, or any number of things that some students may have good reason to want to keep from their parents. That, in turn, could enable further strife or abuse at home and/or prevent students from opening up at school about such issues at all.

The most controversial part is probably a section regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. It states in full:

(a) A school district, open-enrollment charter school, or district or charter school employee may not provide or allow a third party to provide instruction, guidance, activities, or programming regarding sexual orientation or gender identity to students enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade.

(b) This section may not be construed to limit:

    1. a student's ability to engage in speech or expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by Section 8, Article 1, Texas Constitution, that does not result in material disruption to school activities; or
    2. the ability of a person who is authorized by he district to provide physical or mental health-related services to provide the services to a student, subject to any required parental consent.

It seems section (b) attempts to mitigate concerns about the broadness of section (a). But saying students can talk about gender and sexuality issues at school and/or with a counselor so long as their parents allow it and the school doesn't deem it disruptive is not terribly reassuring.

As with the Florida law, Creighton's provision would seem to prevent even older kids and teenagers from being exposed to any mention of sexuality or gender identity, even when it happens in an age-appropriate manner, is part of a larger discussion about social issues, or is brought up by kids themselves. It would also seem to ban any books or other materials about these topics from school libraries and, yes, possibly ban student LGBTQ clubs as well.

A more narrowly tailored parents' rights solution might give parents who object to such instruction or programming a right to opt their kids out; instead, this says it's not allowed for anyone.

Supporters of such measures often portray them as preventing radical gender ideology or sexually explicit information from being offered to small children. But in practice, lawmakers keep offering sweeping measures like this one that attempt to keep any talk of gender or sexuality out of even high schools.

"It is unconscionable that lawmakers would attempt to sneak a 'Don't Say Gay/Transgender' requirement into a bill that was not at all crafted for this purpose and previously received bipartisan support," Texas Freedom Network Senior Political Director Carisa Lopez said in a statement. "Anti-LGBTQ legislation of this nature creates an unsafe, hostile learning environment for LGBTQIA+ students, families, and educators while violating the rights of all families and parents who support inclusivity."


In Naked Feminism: Breaking the Cult of Female Modesty, economist Victoria Bateman argues against a world in which female "respect depends on their bodily modesty." Adult performer and advice columnist Jessica Stoya talked to Bateman about her trouble promoting the book, laws that impinge on women's bodily autonomy, and what happens "when feminists also get into bed with those social conservatives and religious zealots," as Bateman puts it.

Bateman notes that for a certain sort of feminist, women wearing headscarves and women doing sex work are equally contemptible:

"European feminists argue that if there are some women who are covering their heads, then that will cause men to think badly of women in general, to see them as different, to see them as a separate species…in the same way that feminists argue that sex work will cause men to see all women as sex objects," said Bateman.

Despite her approval of my choice to "dress" to match her preferred interview costume, Bateman is not advocating for a world where all women wander around nude. "What I'm aiming for is a world in which every woman can make decisions about her own body in terms of the degree to which she covers or not, her body, what she does with her vagina, [and] what she does with her own fertility. I want every woman to be able to decide for herself. And that means to me, the sign of a liberal society is one in which you have variety. It is one in which you have women who are sunbathing topless, but where you also have women who are able to wear burkas and where you have women who are, say, rocket scientists, but also women who are sex workers."


Minnesota is close to legalizing recreational marijuana:


• "The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will soon be proposing new rules to clarify that synthetically manufactured cannabinoids like delta-8 THC are prohibited controlled substances," reports Marijuana Moment.

• Massachusetts is considering a bill to decriminalize prostitution.

• George Mason University professor Justin Gest, author of Majority Minority, argues for a points-based immigration system.

• Don't mix rare bourbon with state power.

• The left-right spectrum is mostly meaningless.

• The queer activists of today have little in common with gay and lesbian activists of yore and "we are going backward, not forward," argues Andrew Sullivan.