Ohio Lawmakers Introduce Cruel LGBTQ+ Censorship Bill Targeting Free Speech in the Classroom

For Immediate Release

Apr 5, 2022

Media Contact: md@equalityohio.org 

Ohio Lawmakers Introduce Cruel LGBTQ+ Censorship Bill Targeting Free Speech in the Classroom

Columbus, Ohio (April 5th)– On Monday, lawmakers introduced House Bill 616, a curriculum ban bill combined with a more dangerous version of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill. HB 616 is more broad and vague, expanding censorship of LGBTQ+ issues from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Legislation like HB 616 erases LGBTQ+ people from the classroom and is exceptionally cruel to community members, their families, and anyone who loves them.

“Ohio’s Don’t Say Gay bill is yet another incidious attempt to chill and censor free speech in the classroom. Lawmakers are effectively trying to erase LGBTQ+ people and skew history in their favor,” said Equality Ohio’s Executive Director, Alana Jochum. “Attacks like these are a product of a small minority of people pushing their agenda to dismantle diversity at all costs—and in the process putting educators and families in jeopardy for political gain. Equality Ohio  vehemently opposes House Bill 616, and we will work tirelessly to stop it from inching its way into our classrooms.” 

LGBTQ+ youth are already more marginalized and vulnerable in the classroom. A Trevor Project study from 2021 found that “the majority of LGBTQ youth (52%) who were enrolled in middle or high school reported being bullied either in person or electronically in the past year.”

This legislation will also deeply harm the more than 30% of LGBTQ+ adults who are raising kids in Ohio, by chilling discussion of  non-traditional families in the classroom and banning students from discussing their own lived experiences. 

HB 616 prohibits discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarden to third grade and—in a step more extreme than Florida’s bill—censors such discussions through 12th grade. It also bans honest discussions of race in the classroom, including “diversity, equity, and inclusion” and “any other concept that the state board of education defines as divisive.”  Penalties include possible removal of a teachers license, school funding, or “any other procedures that the department determines are necessary to enforce the prohibitions.” 

LGBTQ+ people are actively being erased from our classrooms, healthcare, and extracurricular activities in an attack on all parts of young people’s lives. This is part of a national campaign led by a small minority of extreme special interest groups targeting the most vulnerable youth in our communities. We know that more than 79% of Ohioans believe in nondiscrimination protections. LGBTQ+ protections and support for LGBTQ+ people is at an all time high in Ohio. This legislation is out of step with Ohioans, takes our state down the wrong path, and must be defeated. 

Right now, we’re encouraging advocates, allies, and community leaders to contact House Speaker Cupp at (614) 466-9624 and tell him to oppose this bill. Sign up for our newsletter and follow Equality Ohio on social media to get further updates on the legislation and actions items. We’re also asking for donations to support our fight against this legislation.