COLUMBUS— Today, State Reps. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) and Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood), condemned the introduction of House Bill (HB) 616, the Ohio Republican version of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. Under HB 616, schools could not "teach, use, or provide any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity" in kindergarten through third grade. Additionally, older students could not be taught "any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity in any manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
HB 616 is simply the latest draconian censorship bill introduced this General Assembly by House Republicans. Republicans also sponsored HB 327, which would make “failing to fairly present both sides of a political or ideological belief or position” conduct unbecoming of an Ohio educator, prompting widespread alarm from teachers and concerned parents. HB 327 has received five hearings in the House State and Local Government committee, and was nearing a committee vote until the Republican bill sponsor made inaccurate and anti-Semitic comments about the Holocaust during an interview.
“Students can’t grow into well-rounded, educated adults ready to join a diverse, thriving workforce when the ability to think critically and the desire to recognize and celebrate each other’s differences has been banned in schools,” said Rep. Kelly. “These censorship bills all move Ohio in the wrong direction– backwards.”
While Republicans continue their attacks on LGBTQ+ Ohioans, Democrats are calling for action on the Ohio Fairness Act, bipartisan legislation that would protect LGBTQ+ Ohioans from discrimination in employment, housing and accommodations. The Ohio Fairness Act was introduced in March 2021, but has yet to receive a single hearing.
“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is outright dangerous and sets a precedent of censorship and misinformation in Ohio,” said Rep. Skindell. “As a proud primary sponsor of the Ohio Fairness Act, I strongly oppose HB 616 and its tactics to silence, limit and infringe upon the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The majority of Ohio business owners support adding LGBTQ+ non-discrimination to Ohio law, with more than 50 percent saying nondiscrimination laws improve businesses’ bottom lines. More than 800 leading Ohio businesses and organizations have backed the Ohio Fairness Act, which they say will attract workers, increase investment and grow the state’s economy. Conversely, business-minded organizations have expressed concerns behind closed doors about the legal uncertainty these Republican censorship bills would impose.
HB 616 now awaits referral to a House committee.