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Sunday June 4th

Parents' Bill of Rights passes Senate Rules Committee, to move to N.C. Senate floor

<p>The North Carolina General Assembly building in Raleigh, N.C.</p>
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The North Carolina General Assembly building in Raleigh, N.C.

House Bill 755, Parents' Bill of Rights, moved to the N.C. Senate floor after passing its hearing in the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday.

The bill, which was introduced and passed in the N.C. House of Representatives in May 2021, would require parental notification if a student uses a different name or pronoun and prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 curriculums. 

Sen. Joyce Waddell, D-Mecklenberg, voiced concerns about the burden the bill would place on teachers and asked how evaluation of classrooms and educators will take place. Waddell previously spoke about the bill during its hearing in the Education Committee, where she voiced concerns about “micromanagement.”

After Waddell spoke, the floor was opened to public comment. LGBTQ+ activists and parents' rights advocates voiced their opinions of the bill. There were 11 speakers in total. Nine speakers told lawmakers the bill was harmful to LGBTQ+ youth, and two people spoke in favor of the bill.

Time Out Youth Executive Director Sarah Mikhail said that she is concerned that the bill will add further strain to the few resources LGBTQ+ youth have. 

She cited data from a 2022 survey by The Trevor Project, which showed that only 37 percent of youth identified their homes as LGBTQ+-affirming. She said that youth in non-affirming homes may be at risk of being displaced from their home or abused within their home if outed.

“This bill all but guarantees that young people will be outed before they’re ready to share,” Mikhail said.

She said she is “pro-parent” in that she supports parents’ affirming involvement in their LGBTQ+ children’s lives, but worries about youth in non-affirming homes. Mikhail urged lawmakers not to pass the bill, saying it could have negative effects on students’ mental health and increase already high rates of suicide in LGBTQ+ youth.

Austin Horne, an LGBTQ+ Outreach Specialist for Family Service of the Piedmont, also voiced concerns about youth being displaced by non-affirming parents. According to Horne, there will not be enough resources or beds to help the youth who will be affected.

Tyler Beall, president of LGBTQ+ Democrats of North Carolina, said that this legislation is a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. According to Beall, section 115C-76.16, which requires parental notification for any changes to a student’s name or pronouns, is targeting the LGBTQ+ community. 

Beall said that because the bill extends parental authority to challenge instruction for all grade levels, the bill would implement a version of “don’t ask, don’t tell" in schools.

“You will be instituting a culture of fear,” he said. “Students will be too afraid to ask school personnel for help which includes teachers, counselors, coaches, librarians, janitors, bus drivers, you name it.”

Beall also discussed comments Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson made in June 2021, speaking out against the LGBTQ+ community in a sermon at Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove, North Carolina.

“There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth,” Robinson said while speaking at the church.

Beall urged the Senate Rules Committee to condemn Robinson's remarks.

“Am I filth to you?” he asked. “Is that really the culture that you want our students and children growing up in, being called filth?”

Kristie Puckett-Williams, director of engagement for the ACLU of North Carolina, also spoke against the bill. 

“This bill as written is harmful, and I urge you to vote 'no' to harming children in this unnecessary way,” she said.

Others who spoke out against the bill included a former N.C. teacher, a parent of queer children, a transgender woman and a Christian from The Freedom Center for Social Justice. 

Eloise Robinson, a grandmother and former kindergarten, second and third grade teacher, was the first to speak in support of the bill. She said the current curriculum is political and sexual, leading to lower Programme for International Student Assessment scores and difficulty in reading and math.

“When I taught in kindergarten, I never had a child that told me they were gay,"  she said. "I never had a child that wanted to change sex – and the reason is that these are young children, these are innocent children. They believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. They are not interested in sex.” 

John Rustin, the president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, also spoke in favor of the bill. Rustin said that the bill acknowledges parents’ fundamental rights to the care and upbringing of their children.

After public comment, Senate Deputy President Pro Tempore Ralph Hise spoke in favor of the bill. 

“There is a veil being placed between parents and children,” he said.

Hise said that the bill will remove this veil.

The only senators on the committee to comment on the bill were Waddell and Hise. The motion was passed without further deliberation.

If passed in the state Senate, it is likely the bill will be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. In this scenario, senators from both parties would have to vote in favor of overriding the veto.


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