Georgia's Florida-Style 'Don't Say Gay' Measure Would Reach into Private Schools' Classrooms

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday March 11, 2022

Georgia state Sen. Senator Burt Jones, a Jackson Republican, speaks to a Senate committee in Atlanta, in this March 3, 2020, file photo
Georgia state Sen. Senator Burt Jones, a Jackson Republican, speaks to a Senate committee in Atlanta, in this March 3, 2020, file photo  (Source:(Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

Georgia state lawmakers took the idea behind Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill and went further with it — all the way into the classrooms of private schools, NBC News reported.

The bill, which has the backing of 10 Republican state senators, has the dubious name of "The Common Humanity in Private Education Act." The measure stipulates that "no private or nonpublic school or program ... shall promote, compel, or encourage classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not appropriate for the age and developmental stage of the student," the article conveyed.

"No teacher should be promoting gender identity discussions with small children in a classroom setting," one of the GOP lawmakers, Burt Jones, said.

Jones, an opponent of mask mandates in schools, has declared himself a candidate for Lt. Governor in the state's upcoming elections.

As the Republican state lawmakers in Florida had done, the legislators in Georgia framed the measure as protecting the rights of parents. But LGBTQ+ equality advocates scoffed at that rationale.

"We know it's not about parental rights," Georgia Equality head Jeff Graham told the media. "It really is about restricting the activities, participation and learning of children in school."

"The Georgia Don't Say Gay bill is government sanctioned censorship disguised as nondiscrimination," Georgia Equality stated to NBC News. The group added: "Simply talking about your family could be a violation of the provisions in this bill."

According to Georgia Equality, one "third of same-sex couples living in the state are raising children and that most families in Georgia have LGBTQ family members."

Georgia lawmakers also included language in their "Don't Say Gay" bill that forbids "promoting the idea that 'an individual, solely by virtue of the individual's race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,'" NBC News noted.

The measures in Georgia and Florida are part of a nationwide wave of bills targeting discussion of racial, gender, and sexual minorities in schools, NBC News noted, detailing that GOP lawmakers in Tennessee approved a bill this week that "would ban public schools from grades K-12 from using textbooks or instructional materials that 'promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender (LGBT) lifestyles.'"

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Kansas state House of Representatives "introduced a bill last month that would change the state's obscenity law to make it a Class B misdemeanor to teach classroom materials about 'homosexuality,'" NBC News added.

The Human Rights Campaign, in a March 10 release, said that the rash of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation from state lawmakers is a "coordinated" effort intended to "fear monger and marginalize LGBTQ+ people."

"Groups like the Heritage Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom, Eagle Forum, and others are at the helm of this effort, seeking to use LGBTQ+ rights as a political wedge," the release said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.