The text of the bill says that school districts would be prohibited from allowing any student to participate in “any school student group or club involving sexuality, gender, or gender identity” without the student’s parent providing “written permission” for student participation.
The legislation also calls for the school to explicitly inform parents that they’re allowed to “review the group’s or club’s formation documents,” which could include bylaws, statements of purpose, mission statements, or goal documents.
To state the obvious, this sort of bill puts already vulnerable youth in even more danger. Not all youth are “out” to their parents or families, and that’s completely fine. LGBTQ+ (and questioning) youth deserve the opportunity to feel safe, seen, and supported by their peers and adults in their lives, even if those people aren’t their family members. LGBTQ+ youth face disproportionate levels of bullying and violence at school; taking away opportunities for solace feels especially cruel, especially given that trans youth are also being pushed out of sports. No one should have to live in the closet, and the last place queer youth need to feel even more isolated and attacked is at school.
And for youth who aren’t LGBTQ+, the very framing of a queer club needing “different” or “extra” permission suggests that there’s something inherently wrong or dangerous about being LGBTQ+. This only adds to already negative stereotypes about the queer community and queer people, and might add to learned perspectives of queerphobia or that queer people are somehow “other” or to be avoided.
This bill seems to use the foundation of parental rights when it comes to sex education and sexual health classes offered at public and charter schools in the state. The bill stresses that parents of students in public schools have the right to “review” learning materials and activities in these courses in advance, and may object to any “learning material or activity” on the basis of it being “harmful.” They may request to withdraw the student from that class or program. They may request an “alternative” assignment instead.
By the way, if Kavanagh sounds familiar to you, it might be because he was the initial pusher for the anti-trans “bathroom bill” in Arizona back in 2013. He originally wanted to make it a crime for trans people to use the bathroom that aligned with their gender identity and wanted to protect businesses from lawsuits and prosecution if they banned trans people from using the bathrooms that matched their gender identity.
For the curious, he’s also described immigrants as criminals, apparently suggested that everyone “shouldn’t be voting,” and argued in favor of more requirements when it comes to voting in elections, not fewer.
In short, Kavanagh’s anti-LGBTQ+, pro-discrimination stance is nothing surprising, but it is horrifying. Youth (and adults, for that matter) deserve so much better. As we’re seen with the ongoing slew of anti-trans sports bills, Republicans are more than happy to spew hate if it gets them votes, so we need to be on our game when it comes to countering all of these legislations, no matter what fresh angle they try to use. LGBTQ+ youth are some of the most vulnerable people in this nation, and every adult should be doing what we can to support them, not harm them.
If you want a little blast from the past, you can see Kavanagh speaking to Jake Tapper in defense of a religious freedom bill that was essentially a license to discriminate.