Outside an adult-themed boutique in Columbia, a message board last week accused state Rep. Chuck Basye of anti-LGBTQ bigotry for a bill allowing parents who aren’t notified their child will receive education about gender identity or sexual orientation to sue the school.
Basye, in an interview Thursday, said that is unfair.
“I am not a hater,” Basye, R-Rocheport, said. “I don’t want to see any kids discriminated against.”
But House Democrats have labeled the bill as one of 15 filed by Republicans that would diminish the rights of LGBTQ individuals.
The number of anti-LGBTQ bills is embarrassing, state Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said.
“That doesn’t reflect who we are as a nation,” he said. “It doesn’t reflect what is right and what is ethical.”
The attack from Democrats doesn’t concern him, Basye said.
“They’re entitled to their opinions,“ Basye said. ”I don’t agree with them. There’s nothing in this legislation that’s discriminatory against anyone.“
Basye’s bill would expanding current state law giving parents the right to remove their child from sex education. It received a public hearing last week in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, which Basye chairs.
Parents currently must be notified when their child is scheduled to receive sex education in class and be given an opportunity to opt out of the curriculum. The bill would require notices also be sent about posters and other displays, presentations by guest speakers and school-sponsored programs imparting information about sex.
It would also expand the notice requirement to include instances when instruction about sexually transmitted diseases was planned.
The bill would require an additional notice when educational material about gender identity or sexual orientation is to be presented.
To enforce the notice and opt-out requirements, the bill would give parents the right to sue and win punitive damages from their child’s school.
The bill would only apply to public schools and charter schools receiving state funds.
The proposal is motivated, Basye said, by a 2018 situation at Gentry Middle School, when posters of celebrities who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender were on display before the school removed them, he said.
The students had been exposed to the posters by the time they were removed, Basye said.
“I think they should know about it beforehand,” Basye said was the intent of his bill. “If they don’t agree with it, it shouldn’t be forced on their children.”
Jay Atkins, an unsuccessful candidate for Columbia Board of Education last year who was involved in getting the posters removed, testified in support of Basye’s bill.
The time given to Atkins left almost no time for opponents to present their testimony. Basye blamed that on Democrats on the committee who asked Atkins a lot of questions.
Basye shared a photo of a sign outside Passion’s Adult Boutique reading “State Rep Chuck Basye is a homophobe. Call and tell him let educators educate.”
“The people that tend to call us intolerant are the most intolerant,” Basye said.
Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Peter Stiepleman declined to comment about Basye’s bill. School board members Teresa Maledy and Blake Willoughby didn’t immediately return phone calls.
Opponents of the bills include Mayor Brian Treece, who issued a Tweet on Thursday about the anti-LGBTQ bills.
“These bills are bad for business,” Treece wrote in the Tweet.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri opposes Basye’s bill, said its policy director, Sara Baker
“We have some pretty deep First Amendment concerns,” Baker said.
Teachers may be stifled from talking about the sexuality or gender identity of historical figures, Baker said. The language in Bayse’ bill is overly broad.
“We want to make sure we’re not silencing teachers and students,” Baker said.
The threat of legal action also has the effect of chilling speech of teachers and students, Baker said.
The House Minority Caucus issued a news release on Wednesday condemning the Republican bills.
State Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, said the House Democratic Caucus would fight the anti-LGBTQ measures.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced,” Stevens said.
Stevens has filed a bill seeking voluntary establishment of LGBTQ curriculum in schools. It would familiarize students with LGBTQ social movements; the influence of LGBTQ individuals on art, law, history, government, music and culture; and persecution against LGBTQ people.
“I think it’s very important for LGBTQ youth to also learn about the great contributions to history and culture,” Stevens said. “Marginalized groups have had to fight very hard for equality.”
Stevens’ bill has not been referred to a committee for a hearing. Asked if he would support it, Basye said he would try to amend it to allow parents to opt their children to opt out of the course, if it were to get out of committee.
Told of that, Stevens said it would be “problematic.”
“I think it stigmatizes the population,” Stevens said of Basye’s proposed amendment. “I think it would be an attempt to ignore or erase the contributions of the LGBTQ community.”
State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said bills like the one filed by Basye are damaging.
“His bill is a solution in search of a problem,” Kendrick said.
Worse is the message it sends, Kendrick said.
“The suicide rate for LGBTQ youth is alarmingly high,” Kendrick said. They also a frequent targets of bullying, he said.
Kendrick is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan Missouri Nondiscrimination Act. It’s the 22nd consecutive year it has been filed. It would prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, banking or public accommodations.
It also hasn’t received been referred to a committee. Kendrick said it usually receives a hearing in April, when it’s too late to act on it.
“In 2020, it’s just hard for me to believe this is where we are,” Kendrick said.