‘Don’t Say Gay’ arrives in Ohio: Republicans introduce HB 616 in the Ohio House

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

By Ken Schneck

On Monday, Republicans introduced HB 616 in the Ohio House of Representatives, legislation with broad, vague, and barely defined language designed to ban the promotion and teaching of “divisive and inherently racist concepts.”

The bill contains specific bans on acknowledging or discussing LGBTQ+ identity.

Sponsored by Representatives Mike Loychick (R-Bazetta) and Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), the bill would ban school districts from selecting “any textbook, instructional material, or academic curriculum that promotes any divisive or inherently racist concepts” including:

  • Critical race theory
  • Intersectional theory
  • The 1619 project
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion learning outcomes
  • Inherited racial guilt
  • Any other concept that the state board of education defines as divisive or inherently racist

Additionally, the bill would prevent schools from offering “training or professional development to employees that promote or endorse divisive or inherently racist concepts.”

Further, the bill jumps right into the “Don’t Say Gay” fray championed by Republican lawmakers in Florida with the following proposed bans:

  • With respect to a student in any of grades kindergarten through three, schools may not teach, use, or provide any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • With respect to a student in any of grades four through twelve, schools may not teach, use, or provide any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity in any manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

Consequences for violating these statutes include an official licensure admonishment, licensure suspension, licensure revocation, and the withholding of funds to that school.

Ohio’s LGBTQ+ organizations will be releasing statements and strategies in the upcoming days, though a TikTok from Kathryn Poe, public policy organizer at Equality Ohio, summed up initial reactions to the bill:

“Today Ohio lawmakers introduced a combination ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and curriculum ban bill, all in one bill. This is a combination of all of the really bad parts of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and all of the really bad parts of Ohio’s curriculum ban. Not only that, this bill somehow manages to be even more broad and vague than the other versions of this bill.”

Kathryn Poe, public policy organizer at Equality Ohio

Next stop, the bill will be assigned a committee — likely the Primary and Secondary Education Committee — before proponent and then opponent testimony hearings are scheduled. 

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