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Transgender bill draws fire in state Senate hearing

Legislation banning teachers and other nonparental adults from talking about gender identity with minors without the consent of a parent or guardian drew a parade of opponents Wednesday, including religious conservatives.

Senate Bill 88, which was introduced during this year’s General Assembly session, would further isolate already vulnerable transgender youths, who commit suicide at higher rates than other young people, Jeff Graham, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Georgia Equality, testified during a hearing on the bill before the Senate Education & Youth Committee.

“This will only add to the stigma they face and make life more challenging and difficult,” Graham said.

Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele, the legislation’s chief sponsor, dismissed comparisons of the measure with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill Florida lawmakers passed last year.

“All we’re saying is if you’re going to talk about gender [identity] with a child under 16 years old, you need to talk to the parent or guardian,” Summers said. “It is not [a teacher’s] job to discuss gender with a child. That’s a job for a parent or guardian.”

Kate Hudson of Atlanta, founder of the non-profit organization Education Veritas, said a nationwide movement in the schools is actively encouraging students to consider changing the gender identities they were born with.

“It is an intentional effort to dismantle our society and brainwash our youth,” Hudson said. “Our children have a God-given right to an education free of this indoctrination.”

But the bill’s opponents said students cannot be indoctrinated to be something they are not and barring them from talking about these issues with teachers can only be harmful.

“If Georgia teachers aren’t able to interact with my child … my child will go to school isolated and afraid,” said Jordan Black, the Gwinnett County mother of a transgender student.

Some opponents also argued the legislature should be addressing more important education-related issues including overhauling the decades-old K-12 school funding formula and prioritizing the needs of schools in rural Georgia.

“There are other problems in our schools,” said Mason Goodwin of the grassroots organization Georgia Youth Justice Coalition. “We just got out of the pandemic. Why are we focusing on this?”

Religious conservatives who testified Wednesday expressed concern that the bill would apply to private schools as well as public schools.

Sen. Ed Setzler, RAcworth , a member of the committee, said the state shouldn’t be dictating to private schools.

“I don’t know that we have an interest in doing what this bill does,” he said.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a related bill this year limiting gender-affirming medical care for transgender children, voting along party lines. A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction last week temporarily blocking enforcement of Senate Bill 140, an order the state is appealing.

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