UPDATE: The Indiana House passed House Bill 1608 on a 65-29 vote on Thursday. The bill will now move on to the Indiana Senate.
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers made significant changes Monday to a measure aimed at restricting classroom instruction on certain topics for young students before advancing it to the full House.
The original version of House Bill 1608 prohibited students in kindergarten through third grade from learning about topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in school.
The bill went through changes during a Monday hearing in front of the House Education Committee. The committee ultimately voted 9-4 along party lines, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing it, to advance the legislation to the House floor.
During the hearing, bill author Rep. Michelle Davis amended the bill so that it banned the discussion of “human sexuality” in kindergarten through third grade, eliminating the mentions of sexual orientation and gender identity that were originally in the bill.
Another amendment proposed by Rep. Jake Teshka would mandate parental notification if a student asked a school staff member to change their name or pronouns. The amendment passed along party lines.
Monday’s hearing came against the backdrop of a protest, with opponents of the bill rallying against it. They criticized the measure as anti-LGBTQ in nature, saying it sent the wrong message to vulnerable youth.
Supporters of the bill said it’s intended to make sure parents are in charge of discussions on sensitive topics with their children.
Lawmakers heard testimony from both sides of the issue, although it was apparent during Monday’s hearing that the majority of those who spoke in front of the committee opposed the legislation.
The measure is drawing comparisons to a similar one in Florida that spurred a national debate.
The ACLU of Indiana spoke out against the passage of the bill.
“HB 1608 is a disgraceful piece of legislation that targets LGBTQ kids by censoring conversations about LGBTQ families in schools and forcing teachers to out transgender students. Every parent hopes our laws will ensure children’s safety, protection, and freedom. But the Indiana legislators supporting this bill are rejecting those values and targeting LGBTQ kids for bullying and mistreatment, just because of who they are. Our schools should protect all students—including LGBTQ students—so they can learn and thrive in a safe environment. The legislators behind HB 1608 are trying to force schools to violate that most basic trust. LGBTQ families in Indiana will not be erased and we will be out in force if and when this bill is heard in the Senate.”ACLU of Indiana Advocacy and Public Policy Director Katie Blair