Education, Health, and Safety

Not Just Florida. How “Don’t Say Gay” Legislation Compares In Other States.

Florida has attracted considerable attention for its “Parental Rights in Education” law. It’s not a new legislative notion; for example, a current political candidate in New Hampshire twelve years ago was pushing legislation to bar “pro-gay” curriculum from the classroom. But currently these gag laws have swept across the country, with similar legislation is appearing in at least a dozen other states. Each bill has its own particular language; how does the legislation compare? Let’s consider how several states are approaching the issue.

Florida’s law includes this language:

Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

That means that the bill does not technically target LGBTQ content, though it raises questions about what it may prohibit. After all, heterosexuality is a sexual orientation, and “boy” and “girl” are gender identities.



HB 322 started out as a bathroom bill (Sponsor Rep. Scott Stadthagen said, “Almost every school district in this state is dealing with this issue with opposite genders wanting to use opposite bathrooms. I find this to be a safety issue. It is for protection of our students.”) It was amended to include language declaring that anyone teaching in grades K-5 “shall not engage in classroom discussion or provide classroom instruction regarding sexual orientation or gender identity” that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” In this law, “engage” is a problem word, suggesting that even if students bring the topics up, teachers should refuse to continue the discussion.


Georgia’s SB 613 appears dead for this year, but it’s still worth noting. Its language forbids schools to “promote, compel or encourage classroom of sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels,” but the bill is unique in that it sought to extend these prohibitions to any private or non-public schools that receive state money. Recent voucher bills, like the one that struggled in the Georgia legislature this year, typically include a non-interference requirement to guarantee that government money doesn’t come with government strings; SB 613 runs directly counter to that.


An Indiana anti-CRT bill includes this clause.

A student enrolled at a state educational institution shall not be required to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.

Several states follow this particular template.


SF 2024 bans any “instruction relating to gender identity” from kindergarten classes. In grades 1 through 6, such instruction may only be provided with parental consent. Iowa defines “gender identity” as “a gender-related identity of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”


Another anti-CRT bill with a sexual diversity training provision

No student enrolled at a public postsecondary education institution shall be required to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.


Louisiana is considering a bill that is short and sweeping. No teacher or presenter may “cover” the topics of gender identity or sexual orientation “in any classroom discussion or instruction” in grade K-8. Additionally, no teacher, school employee, or presenter “shall discuss his own sexual orientation or gender identity with students” in grades K-12.

An amendment clarifies that “class discussion” means discussion held during the time between the beginning and end of class, but beyond the curious choice of “his,” the bill raises many questions. Should teachers never mention anything about their family life? Would family photos be forbidden on Louisiana teacher desks? And what exactly does it mean to “cover” a topic? A teacher whose lesson plan said she was going to “cover” a topic would be justly criticized by a supervisor for vagueness.


Missouri’s ant-CRT bill includes the diversity training clause, this time for all public school students.

No pupil in any public school shall be required to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.


HB 616 addresses anti-CRT concerns and follows Florida in prohibiting “any curriculum or instructional materials on [sic] sexual orientation or gender identity.” It goes further by also prohibiting any such instruction for grades 4-12 that “is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” As with Florida’s law, this bill weaponizes those vague terms by giving any citizen the power to file a complaint against any school district or teacher they feel has violated the law.


Oklahoma has another example of an anti-CRT bill with the diversity training prohibition.

No enrolled student of an institution of higher education within The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education shall be required to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling;

Like several of these pieces of legislation, this one is being challenged in court.

South Carolina.

A bill introduced last November folds LGBTQ items together with items included by many states in ant-critical race theory legislation. It prohibits requiring an individual “to affirm, accept, adopt, or adhere” to concepts including “the existence of genders other than male and female,” gender fluidity, nonbinary pronouns, and that race and sex are “social constructs.” It also says that state-funded entities may not

subject minors under the age of eighteen to instruction, presentations, discussions, counseling, or materials in any medium that involve the following controversial and age-inappropriate topics, which are reserved for parents and legal guardians to discuss with and explain to their children in accordance with their family values:

The list includes sexual lifestyles, acts or practices, and gender identity or lifestyles.


Tennessee’s HB 800 is one of the most repressive bills in the country. No public or charter school in state would be allowed to use textbooks or instructional materials that “promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyle.”

A proposed amendment allows schools to keep books they purchased before July of 2022. However, this is a true Don’t Say Gay bill— that word “address” goes far beyond “promote” into a world in which LGBTQ issues cannot even be mentioned.


Texas does not have any bill in the pipeline, but Lt. Governor Dan Patrick would like to have one like Florida’s and since their legislation doesn’t get back to work until next spring, he has asked for Education Committee hearings to address the issue.

While the general concerns expressed are similar, these bills vary considerably. They frequently rest on ill-defined language. For instance, while people may be able to define the extreme reaches of the continuum, “age appropriate” does not draw a bright, clear line.

Many states are bundling their Don’t Say Gay language in with their anti-CRT bills. Some states are treading lightly, with the oft-copied injunction against diversity training, while others like Tennessee and Louisiana would literally forbid saying the word “gay” in a classroom. And in these cases, word choice matters; there’s a big difference between “promoting” something and “normalizing” or “addressing” it.

Some of these bills are not going to make it, but as long as there are political points to be scored, the language is going to keep coming back. Stay tuned and keep watching your state capital.

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