Hoosiers opposing HB 1608 filed into the statehouse on Monday morning. Photo by Gianna Cassin.
GIANNA CASSIN | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Indiana’s House Bill 1608, modeled after Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law passed last year, has passed in the committee. The bill, written by Representative Michelle Davis, R-58, censors discussion of the LGBTQ+ community in schools for students in kindergarten through third grade. The bill includes requiring teachers to inform parents if a student asks to change their name or preferred pronouns.
Hundreds of people packed the Indiana Statehouse at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 20 to express their opposition to the bill. The voices of the protestors could be heard inside the chamber, made clear from the livestream of the debate.
Lucy Smith, a sophomore race, gender and sexuality studies and anthropology double major, arrived at the Statehouse Monday morning, joining a multitude of other Hoosiers.
“Even though I do feel a majority of Indy is against the bill, it was still really wonderful to see the turnout and know that there are so many people who want equality and for our country to grow and not keep deteriorating,” Smith said. “It was especially nice to see a lot of people from Butler, faces that I recognized. It definitely makes the campus feel a lot safer.”
Many in support of the bill view it as a parental rights issue, while many opposed see it as discriminatory, and something children should have control over.
Junior political science major Raleigh Brown first heard about the bill in January, before the language was officially released to the public. She is concerned about the impacts on mental health of teachers in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as students, if they are restricted in their ability to freely self-express in the classroom.
“It’s very much class-based who can get mental healthcare,” Brown said. “I know Republicans love to talk about economics, but why would teachers want to stay [in Indiana]? Why would people want to keep their families here if they don’t feel safe?”
There are several different factors to consider regarding this bill, such as how it impacts students, how it impacts school staff and how it impacts families.
Andre Hardy, a senior criminology and sociology major, organized a group to go to the statehouse with Butler Alliance. As the president of Alliance, Hardy felt it was imperative that the group do something to stand against this bill. He said he is concerned about the future of legislation regarding the LGBTQ+ community in Indiana if HB 1608 passes.
“[Since] this bill specifically is modeled after Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, it was imperative that we went because if this bill is passed, it sets a precedent for other anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation to go through,” Hardy said. “It impacts every part of our lives as LGBTQIA+ people. Also, if we have any friends [or] family who are also LGBTQIA, it’s very scary.”
The bill is set to be voted on in the House at a later date. If passed there, it will go to the Senate. If the bill passes in the Senate and is signed by Governor Eric Holcomb, it would then become an official law in the state of Indiana.