Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.

— Missouri House Bill 2051

In only 37 words, Missouri House Bill 2051, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, threatens to render illegal nearly all discussion of sexual orientation in Missouri public schools. This proposal is fundamentally a step in the wrong direction and places Missouri youth at greater risk.
 
The consequences of this legislation, if passed, are unacceptable. Here are a few:
• LGBTQIA-inclusive health resources and education would be rendered even further out of reach, given that the bill’s language prohibits classroom instruction and materials from referencing sexual orientation unless it’s scientific instruction about reproduction.
• Gay-Straight Alliances and LGBTQIA-inclusive diversity clubs that now are school-supported extracurricular activities would no longer be permissible.
• Educators’ ability to effectively interrupt and stop bullying would be significantly hampered because they could no longer provide any explanation of sexual orientation, let alone inclusive support of bullying victims.
 
Compelling research indicates that, on average, our LGBTQIA youth are more at-risk than their heterosexual peers. Even without this legislation in place, we know that LGBTQIA self-identified youth are several times more likely to experience bullying, are more at risk to contemplate and attempt suicide, and are more at risk for sexual-health consequences due to lack of inclusive public school health education.
 
Legislation like this reminds us that despite the positive social changes of the last several decades, a profound need remains for our youth to have access to hate-free spaces where they are able to be themselves, inclusive of every sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Grassroots programs like Passages, among many other LGBTQIA youth-focused organizations in St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City, and other locales, are part of a critical community safety net.
 
Our Missouri communities should work to make sure that this legislation does not move forward. Get involved immediately through PROMO (www.promoonline.org) for action alerts, upcoming events, a petition against the legislation, and a staff fighting tirelessly toward equality in Missouri.
 
Every young person deserves a safe classroom, free from harassment. Share these 37 words with everyone you know in Missouri, particularly your lawmakers, and inform them of the consequences. Make your voices heard, and stop this bill.

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