Local leaders speak out against Ohio’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill

House Bill 616 has garnered responses from politicians and various organizations due to its stance on controversial topics such as sexual orientation and critic
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 7:50 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Lucas County Commissioners and other local leaders held a press conference voicing opposition to House Bill 616, Ohio’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, on Tuesday.

The bill has garnered responses from politicians and various organizations due to its stance on controversial topics such as sexual orientation and critical race theory being taught in classrooms.

In attendance were City Council members Nick Komives and Toledo Public Schools board member Sheena Barnes, and President of the Toledo chapter of NAACP Rev. Willie Perryman.

“The message today is pretty clear that LGBTQ lives, people of color lives are not divisive. They’re not up for debate. They exist, we exist. We are everywhere,” Komives said.

The house bill introduced by state Republicans earlier this month is very similar to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. However, in addition, the proposed bill prohibits what is referred to as a “divisive or inherently racist” curriculum.

House Bill 616 also states that “curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity” would be banned in classrooms for grades kindergarten through third grade. Like curriculum could be banned from grades 4 through 12 if its presentation is deemed not age-appropriate.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken described the bill as being “fear-based legislation”.

“The issue of race in America is critical and it is not a theory,” Gerken argued that history is not a “woke or unwoke thing” and should be taught accordingly. Woke is a colloquialism used to gauge awareness of societies and cultures that were censored or oppressed.

“All we’re asking to be able to do is teach race as it occurred, history as it was present and not anyone’s version...history is not reactionary,” Gerken added that the culture of America is always evolving and curriculum should reflect such.

“The culture in America changes. Change happens without our permission. Change happens despite our opposition. Change is here in America and it should be. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. There’s no in-between, Gerken said.

Beyond its impact on curriculum, Barnes said if passed, House Bill 616 will have direct implications on resources and protections for students.

Barnes said statistics show that LGBTQ+ students are at a greater risk for suicide, homelessness, abuse, and human trafficking.

“That number triples if that student is a person of color. With bills like this attacking that population it will only hinder even more of their resources and access to safe and high-quality education,” Barnes added that district teachers have voiced concerns.

“This what they pour their hearts into. Our students are their babies as well and they want to protect their babies,” she said teachers have discussed how the bill will only increase daily challenges.

Komives said the bill is a direct attack on public education and minorities. Both Komives and Barnes said the bill is less about protection, as children are exposed to discussions of race and sexual orientation and gender identity on the internet.

“They’re gonna do it [discover] and they’re doing it right now in your homes. They’re doing it on TikTok and these lawmakers aren’t trying to limit those types of things. They’re purposefully attacking teachers, they’re purposefully attacking public education. They’re purposefully attacking LGBT people and people of color, that’s what this is,” he said.

Barnes urged community members to write their state representatives in opposition to not only House Bill 616 but all other bills that “hinders education, hinders teaching the truth and promotes bigotry and racism.”

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