Republicans Feud on House Floor Over Anti-LGBTQ School Bill

Missouri Republicans battled on the state House floor over a bill that would limit discussions over sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom even further than Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill.

The House bill, sponsored by Republican Ann Kelley, was introduced on February 23 and read a second time on February 27. The proposed Parental Rights in Education law states that "no nurse, counselor, teacher, principal, contracted personnel, or other administrative official at a public or charter school shall discuss gender identity or sexual orientation with a minor student" unless they're a licensed mental health care provider and have a guardian's permission.

The proposed legislation in Missouri is one of the latest in a series of anti-LGBTQ bills being pushed forward in Republican-controlled states, where LGBTQ rights advocates say their community is under attack. Many of these bills have found a roadblock along the way of approval because of issues related to the language used to refer to sexual orientation and gender identity.

School classroom
Children study in a classroom as their teacher looks on at Nevitt Elementary School, in Phoenix, Arizona on October 26, 2022. A Missouri bill wants to stop teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in school classrooms. OLIVIER TOURON/AFP via Getty Images

Republican Representatives Phil Christofanelli and Kelley argued about the Missouri bill's text last week, with Christofanelli challenging the point of the proposed legislation and its feasibility.

"You mentioned George Washington, who is Martha Washington?" Christofanelli asked, as can be seen in a clip shared on Twitter. "His wife," Kelley responded.

"With your bill, how could that be mentioned in the classroom?" Christofanelli argued. "To me, that's not sexual orientation," Kelley answered.

"Really? So it's only certain sexual orientations that you want to prohibit from introduction in the classroom," Christofanelli fired back. "I did not introduce your bill, I didn't write it—you wrote it. And so I'm asking what it means. Which sexual orientations do you believe should be prohibited from Missouri classrooms?"

"We all have a moral compass. And my moral compass is compared with [the] Bible," Kelley responded.

"You said that you didn't want teachers' personal beliefs from entering the classroom, but it seems that your personal belief you would like to enter all Missouri classrooms," Christofanelli responded.

Ultimately, Kelley said she didn't know whether the bill would allow for a teacher to mention that Martha Washington was the wife of the first United States president.

Last week, Kelley—a former teacher—stated that "exposure to such topics is inappropriate for children, creating confusion which may then cause doubt in their identities. It is not the place of the school to indoctrinate our children by exposing them to gender and sexual identity curriculums and courses."

Unlike Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act (nicknamed "Don't Say Gay"), which applies from kindergarten to third grade, the Missouri House bill doesn't specify the age group for which discussions around gender identity and sexual orientation would be barred—meaning that the proposed legislation would apply to any grade.

Kelley said that her bill would need to be amended in order to avoid it limiting teaching for Advanced Placement courses.

Newsweek reached out to Ann Kelley via email for comment.