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Senate panel green-lights mandatory notification of pronoun changes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A bill opponents say could out transgender youth cleared a Senate panel Wednesday afternoon with a new religious exemption added.

House Bill 1608 would require teachers to notify parents and get their permission if a student wanted to use a name or pronoun inconsistent with their gender at birth. The Senate Education Committee added a requirement that teachers provide such notification within five business days, along with language stating a teacher could refuse to use a child’s preferred pronouns on the grounds of religious belief.

The measure also includes a ban on any instruction in human sexuality from pre-K through grade 3. Bill sponsor Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, said parents need to be kept in the loop about any issues their children face.

“By allowing our schools to instruct our young students in human sexuality and allowing students to decide on different identities without their parents’ knowledge and consent, it creates an unacceptable intrusion into the parent-child relationship that would be inconsistent with the traditional presumption of parental competence and good intentions,” she said.

The bill’s critics pointed out no school provides instruction on human sexuality and noted the lack of a definition of the term “human sexuality” in the bill. Kelsey Wright said she feared the term could prevent teachers from answering questions from her son’s classmates about her wife. As for the gender identity issue, GenderNexus CEO Emma Vosicky said only 1 in 3 transgender youth are accepted by their families. She said forcibly outing those children to potentially hostile parents would put those children at risk of abuse or neglect.

It’s an issue that affected Quinn Mackenzie personally. Mackenzie, who is nonbinary, said when they tried to come out at age 15, their parents threatened to evict them and send them to conversion therapy.

“I know we all like to believe that every parent is competent and good-intentioned, but that hope does not reflect reality,” he said. “If it did, Child Protective Services would not exist.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate. If it passes there, it has to go back to the House due to changes the committee made.