ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) - Missouri’s legislators are debating a bill that would prohibit public schools from being able to talk about sexual orientation except in terms of reproduction.
The bill, which is already gaining criticism nationally, was proposed by Rep. Steve Cookson R- Fairdealing, and is cosponsored by the most influential House leaders, Speaker Steven Tilley, R - Perryville and Leader Tim Jones R- St. Louis County.
Opponents say this bill would prohibit teachers from talking about any Supreme Court Case involving gay rights, teachers wouldn’t be able to address bullying that centers around sexual orientation, and teachers argue it violates their first amendment right to freedom of speech.
The bill is currently assigned to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee in the Missouri House. The hearing date has not been set for the bill.
The bill sponsor has so far not returned calls and emails requesting an interview about the bill.
A similar bill is being debated in Tennessee, and is expected to pass their Republican-controlled House.
The LGBT Center of St. Louis gathered recorded messages from community members to lawmakers expressing their anger at the bill. PROMO, (Promoting Equality for all Missourians), is sponsoring a petition with more than 2,500 signatures against the proposed legislation. Their Executive Director, A.J. Bockelman, says PROMO has set up a web site where people can upload video messages to the legislature.
“There’s general outrage (in the gay, lesbian and transgender community) that they would consider something like this, because it’s not constitutional, it does not uphold someone’s Freedom of Speech essentially,” he tells KMOX News.
Bockman maintains that most students who find themselves bullied in Missouri schools are targeted because of their sexual orientation.
Another bill being debated in the Missouri House would do the opposite of HB 2051. This bill by Sarah Lampe D – Springfield, would expand the law requiring public schools to adopt policies against bullying in school with respect to sexual orientation. Her bill would also expand it to cover activity on any school property or bus and to include racial or religious bullying. A companion to this bill is one by Rep. Stephen Webber, D – Columbia, that would expand the state’s civil rights law to cover sexual orientation and expand prohibitions against discrimination to include sexual orientation or gender identity.