JEFFERSON CITY — The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard testimony for, but mostly against, House Bill 634, which is titled as “The Protection of Parental Rights Act.”
Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, introduced her bill, which she said is based on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida prohibiting teachers and school staff from mentioning gender identity or sexual orientation.
“We must keep our personal beliefs out of our classrooms,” she said. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove.
Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, who is openly gay, asked Kelley about different topics that could possibly be prohibited by this bill, including the sexuality of Martha Washington, who was married to George Washington.
Christofanelli then asked, “Which sexual orientations do you want prohibited?”
After his continued questioning, the Committee Chair Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, had to call the meeting to order and asked the audience to stop laughing after Kelley’s responses.
Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, who previously was a preschool teacher, asked Kelley what could or could not be talked about in his classroom. Could he answer questions about his husband? Could he talk about different family structures?
Kelley responded with different versions of “I don’t know” and “I could not tell you at this time.”
There were only two witnesses who testified in support of HB 634, a high school student and a history teacher. Both expressed their interest in parental transparency and teaching only to Missouri standards on history teaching.
Several religious leaders, members of the LGBTQ community, teachers, and parents of gay children testified in opposition to HB 634. Several students came to testify as a group, organized by Rabbi Daniel Bogard, who works with the Central Reform Congregation.
The Rev. Mike Angell, a priest at an Episcopal parish in University City, protested this bill as government overreach.
He said, “My faith is not a reason to hate.” This comment was in reference to a remark by Kelley about the importance of her Christian faith and values, as well as their impact on why she proposed this bill.
Bogard testified that the Jewish religion supports a fluid concept of gender and sexuality. He said he opposed the bill because of the harm it would cause and because it would codify certain Christian beliefs into law.
LGBTQ students who testified expressed concerns about the continuation of gender- and sexuality-affirming clubs and the possibility of forced outings. A forced outing is when a person has their sexuality or gender identity shared without their consent.
The bill creates that possibility because it contains transparency rules which would force teachers or other school employees, such as counselors, to report this information to parents within 24 hours.
Stacy Cay, a Kansas City comedian, testified in opposition by sharing her personal history.
Cay said she was raised in a small Christian community in Arkansas, where she was home-schooled. She was raised as a boy and knew nothing about transgender or gay people. They weren’t discussed in her Christian home-school group. There were two other transgender girls that she was home-schooled with. Both are dead and buried under boy names; both died by suicide, she said. Their families did not accept them. Cay left her hometown after being disowned by her family. She now comes to testify at the Capitol against anti-trans legislation.
She has testified so often, she told the Missourian, “I’m starting to lose count.” Giving testimony involves driving from Kansas City and waiting, sometimes hours, before being allowed to speak. The committee hearing began at 8 a.m.; Cay testified around noon.
“I don’t know if Republicans will be affected, but hopefully my testimony will raise awareness among average Americans,” she said.