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Iowa Republicans Launch Assault on Teaching LGBTQ+ Topics in Schools

Rep. Sandy Salmon and Pete Buttigieg

Iowa is considering anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that would allow parents to pull their children from school when issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity are being taught.

This week, lawmakers in the Hawkeye State advanced House File 2201, an outline of a bill that, if enacted into law, would require school districts to annually provide parents (and upon request, stage agencies) "information about any program, curriculum, material, test, survey, questionnaire, activity or instruction of any kind related to sexual orientation or gender identity."

Under this legislation, school districts would also be required to disclose their "procedure for inspecting" any materials or curriculum that include LGBTQ+ topics. Lessons in which these topics are taught would essentially be optional for students, as it would give parents the power to excuse their children from attending them.

The legislation is applicable to "instruction of any kind," involving every subject from history to sex education, and would include grades K-12. Theoretically, a student could graduate high school in Iowa without knowing that Pete Buttigieg, the presidential candidate who made history by topping the polls at the state's caucus last week, is gay.

The bill sparked a heated debate among lawmakers and concerned Iowans in a Monday meeting. 

"Parents have the right to know when it comes to a controversial issue what their children are being taught in schools they're paying for," said Brad Cranston, a pastor from Burlington, Iowa, as reported by local news source WHO-DT.

"What if we're having a discussion on current events and there's a presidential candidate who is gay? Can we not have that conversation in the government class?" asked Emily Piper, a lobbyist from the Iowa Association of School Boards. In response, Rep. Sandy Salmon confirmed that any planned classroom discussion of his sexuality would trigger the parental alert, though not the politician per se.

Lawmakers contended that the law would not be a blanket ban on LGBTQ+ content in the curriculum. But some worried that the approval process and treatment of the subject matter would lead to stigma and misinformation. "It assumes children can turn gay by suggestion," said Lorilei Baker, a mental health professional.

The measure, introduced by 13 Republicans, has been advanced to the House Education Committee. A final bill would include language that addresses concerns raised at this week's meeting, admitted Salmon.

However, Keenan Crow, from One Iowa Action, slammed the "onerous" requirements outlined in the file in an interview with the Des Moines Register. He also pointed out the potential legislation's flawed premise: sexual orientation and gender identity apply to everyone, regardless of LGBTQ+ identity. 

At least 13 bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community have been introduced during Iowa's current legislative session — five in the past 24 hours alone. One Iowa Action is urging concerned Iowans to contact their representatives and urge them to end "the extreme and divisive legislation."

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