Over the past three years, legislative attacks on education about gender identity and sexual orientation have picked up momentum.
Since 2021, state lawmakers introduced 42 bills in 22 states restricting education about those topics, according to PEN America, a free speech advocacy organization. Of those 42, only one, in Florida, has become law.
The Florida law, commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, has resulted in censorship of classroom discussions about LGBTQ identities and same-sex families, book challenges, and on inclusive gestures by teachers, such as hanging up a Pride flag in the classroom.
The law was passed last year, and has prompted copycat bills across the country, which seem to be increasing in volume compared with the previous two years. Since January, lawmakers introduced 26 bills in 14 states.
None of those bills have been passed, but most are advancing through statehouses. Many more states are expected to pass their versions this year, according to Jeremy Young, the senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America.
Most of the newer bills propose expanding on the limitations that Florida put in place.
Ten bills would extend the ban on lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity to grades 5 or 6. Seven bills propose upping the restriction to Grade 8, and another seven would ban this type of instruction completely from K-12, according to a database PEN America updates weekly.
Of the 22 states, seven have Democratic governors, making these bills less to pass. Those include Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
In three of those seven states, these bills have died.
Overall, of the 42 bills, 30 are progressing through statehouses, 11 are dead, and one has been passed into law.