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Arizona GOP Governor vetoes anti-LGBTQ education bill

Ducey called the bill “broad and overly vague”

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Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey (Screenshot via KPNX NBC 12)

PHOENIX, AZ. – Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey vetoed a controversial legislative measure, Senate Bill 1456  which had been backed by Cathi Herrod President of Center for Arizona Policy, a vehemently anti-LGBTQ policy think-tank and advocacy group.

The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday that although Ducey vetoed the measure he instead issued an executive order requiring public notice of any such curriculum before it can be used in Arizona classrooms.

The measure would have required schools to get parents’ permission for discussions about gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV/AIDS in sex education classes and also restricted curriculum teaching students about historical events involving sexual orientation, such as a discussion of the modern gay rights movement that sprang from the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York as well.

The dual actions appeared to be a compromise between the provisions of Senate Bill 1456 and critics who said it would marginalize LGBTQ children by, among other things, banning discussion of issues related to gay and trans history.

Ducey called the bill “broad and overly vague” as he issued only his second veto of the legislative session.

Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, had introduced SB 1456 in February where it was passed out of the Senate Education Committee along party lines.

“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about what schools are teaching their children about human sexuality and gender identity,” Barto said during a committee hearing on the measure.

The Governor said that his executive order “would give parents a “meaningful opportunity” to have a say in the creation and review of any sex-education curriculum.” He added that it would provide stronger protections for parental rights on curriculum development than SB 1456 would have allowed.

Those provisions include requirements that any school board crafting sex-education curriculum must make materials available for public review for at least 60 days before any vote on the matter; be the subject of at least two public hearings; and make the curriculum available for parents to review both in person and online a least two weeks before the course is taught.

In a press release, the Center for Arizona Policy denounced the Governor’s action labeling it as ‘the veto disregards parents’ rights.’  The group also cautioned; “Make no mistake, the need to advocate for the parents’ ability to guide the education of their children, especially with regard to matters of human sexuality, will continue to be a key priority for us, and the many Arizonans who supported SB 1456.”

“I want to thank the LGBTQ community, my fellow caucus members and our many allies for effectively using your voices to point out the many flaws in this bill, and how it would be used as a weapon to once again silence, erase and marginalize our voices. And I want to thank Governor Ducey for hearing those voices and doing the right thing,” said Cesar Chávez, D-Phoenix, Chairman of the Arizona LGBTQ Legislative Caucus.

“It is important for me to reiterate that parents have and still have a choice in regard to age-appropriate comprehensive sex education, which the Governor reaffirmed with his executive order. However, the intent of this bill was to legislate far past that and create a silo which deemed gender identity, expression and sexual orientation as somehow immoral. That is just wrong and would have put caused students long-term harm,” Chávez continued.

During the House debate last week, openly gay Representative Daniel Hernandez, (D- District 2, South Tucson-Pima) angrily took to the House Floor, blasting the bill saying that it was little more than a vehicle for Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy to fund raise from and that it was unnecessary.

Hernandez blasted opposition lawmakers for wasting resources and time instead of addressing the fact that over 17,000 Arizonans have died because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Arizona

Arizona bill passes- parents can sue teachers for ‘usurping’ parental rights

“The consistent targeting of LGBTQ youth by the Arizona Legislature is a disgrace. School is sometimes the only place these kids feel safe”

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Arizona Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Arizona)

PHOENIX – A bill that allows parents to sue teachers for ‘usurping’ parental rights passed the state senate this week and is headed to the House for a final vote before being sent to Republican Governor Doug Ducey for his signature.

House Bill 2161, authored by Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, initially was crafted to make it illegal for a government employee to withhold information that is “relevant to the physical, emotional or mental health of the parent’s child,” and specifically prevents teachers from withholding information about a student’s “purported gender identity” or a request to transition to a gender other than the “student’s biological sex.”

The bill would allow parents to sue school districts if teachers don’t comply.

After considerable opposition and uproar the bill was reworked with that specific language removed although the bill’s language now prohibits a school, political subdivision or government from “usurping the fundamental right” of a parent in raising their children, allows a parent to bring a civil suit against any government entity or official that violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights in Arizona law, gives parents the rights to all written or electronic records from a school about their child — including a students counseling records — and requires schools to notify parents before a survey is conducted of students, among other changes.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and others charge that the vagueness of the current language would still expose educators to the risk of being sued. The Arizona Mirror reported that Sen. Christine Marsh, a Phoenix Democrat and the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year said that “I am a hard ‘no’ on this bill,” when explaining her vote on the Seante floor Monday afternoon. She added that the vague wording of “usurping the fundamental right” in the bill will likely lead to many parents filing lawsuits. 

“Anything could potentially qualify for it so we might have a whole bunch of teachers going to court for this,” she added.

Those concerns were also echoed by her Democratic Senate colleagues the Mirror reported  during committee hearings on the bill who feared that if passed, the bill could see librarians getting in trouble for recommending books that conflict with a parent’s worldview. 

Rep. Daniel Hernández told the Blade on Wednesday, “The consistent targeting of LGBTQ youth by the Arizona Legislature is a disgrace. School is sometimes the only place these kids feel safe. I encourage Arizona lawmakers to tackle bringing down prices and fixing our roads and bridges instead of making life harder for an already vulnerable group of students.”

Arizona Republic news columnist and longtime capital observer EJ Montini noted in his column Tuesday:

“For years, the Republican majority in the Arizona Legislature has waged war on public education, most specifically targeting teachers. Low pay. Ridiculous expectations. Insults. Intimidation,” he wrote.

“Working its way through the Legislature so that it may soon land on Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk is House Bill 2161, a dangerously obtuse piece of legislation that would allow parents to sue teachers and other government officials if they “usurp” a parent’s “fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.”

What does that mean, exactly? Well, your guess is as good as mine. As good as anybody’s.

By the looks of it, HB 2161 is a way for lousy parents to sue good teachers. Essentially, it presents the cynical notion that teachers know the children in their classes better than the children are known by their mothers and fathers. And that teachers have more influence over children than their mothers and fathers,” Montini wrote.

Equality Arizona and other LGBTQ+ advocacy groups are raising the alarm that House Bill 2161 specifies that parents are allowed to object to instructional materials if it “questions [their] beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.”

This language has been labeled as a pathway to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ practices by activists.

HB2161 also spells out that parents must also be notified in advance if a teacher plans to incorporate “sexuality” into instructional materials other than sex education, and will be given the option to opt their children out.

The bill would also prohibit school districts from offering sex education to students unless their parents sign a permission slip allowing them to participate. But even if a parent allows their child to receive sex education, this bill specifically would give them the “right” to ban their child from learning about AIDS.

The dangerous portion of the bill’s language that activists say will seriously harm LGBTQ+ youth are provisions that would give parents the right to access all written and electronic records pertaining to their child, including participation in extracurricular activities and clubs, counseling records, reports of behavioral patterns, and email and other online accounts.

If an LGBTQ+ youth was not Out at home or was having problems that language could endanger the young person and compounds the problem by putting teachers who are assisting LGBTQ+ youth at risk of lawsuits.

The bill passed 16-12. Because it was amended in the Senate, it returns to the House of Representatives for a final vote possibly this week, after which it would go to Gov. Ducey for his signature.

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Arizona

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey refuses to say Trans people exist

According to the Associated Press, when specifically asked if he believed that there “are really transgender people,” the governor paused

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Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug (Screenshot/Arizona Public Media)

PHOENIX – Refusing to directly reporter’s questions Thursday the day after he signed Senate Bill 1138, which bans some types of medical care for transgender youth, and Senate Bill 1165, which prevents transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity, Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey refused to say if transgender people actually exist.

According to the Associated Press, when specifically asked if he believed that there “are really transgender people,” the governor paused for several seconds before answering.

“I’m going to ask you to read the legislation and to see that the legislation that we passed was in the spirit of fairness to protect girls sports in competitive situations,” Ducey said, referring to the new law that targets transgender girls who want to play on girls sports teams. “That’s what the legislation is intended to do, and that’s what it does.”

Asked again if he believed there are “actual transgender people,” he again answered slowly and carefully.

“I … am going to respect everyone, and I’m going to respect everyone’s rights. And I’m going to protect female sports. And that’s what the legislation does,” Ducey said.

Bridget Sharpe, the Arizona director of the Human Rights Campaign, described Ducey’s statements as “appalling.” “It’s quite shocking that he can’t even address trans people or even say that he thinks they exist,” Sharpe said.

The governor also signed abortion legislation that mirrors a Mississippi law currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court that will  will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks.

“Across the country, moderate Republicans are struggling—and too often failing—to stop the takeover of their party by dangerous extremists. Today’s trio of extreme AZ laws, one stripping away the right to abortion and two targeting transgender youth, show that Arizona is losing that battle.  We are in danger of watching large segments of our nation give way to authoritarian extremism,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, (NCLR) told the Blade in a phone call.

Ducey  is in the last year of his second term as Arizona governor and state law on term limits him from seeking reelection.

Cathi Herrod, the virulent anti-LGBTQ+ head of the Center for Arizona Policy lauded the governor’s actions telling the Associated Press that the legislation protects the unborn, ensures a level playing field for female athletes and shows that “Arizona will do everything it can to protect vulnerable children struggling with gender confusion” by enacting the surgery ban.

In a news release she posted on Twitter, Herrod wrote: “Thank you, Governor Ducey, for taking a bold stand for women athletes, vulnerable children, and the unborn by putting your signature on (the bills) in the face of intense opposition from activists.”

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Arizona

Arizona Governor signs three laws limiting transgender rights, abortion

“Today alone, on the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility, three anti-trans bills were signed into law across the country”

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Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (Screenshot NBC News 12 Phoenix)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1138, which bans some types of medical care for transgender youth, and Senate Bill 1165, which prevents transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

The governor also signed abortion legislation that mirrors a Mississippi law currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court that will  will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks.

“Across the country, moderate Republicans are struggling—and too often failing—to stop the takeover of their party by dangerous extremists. Today’s trio of extreme AZ laws, one stripping away the right to abortion and two targeting transgender youth, show that Arizona is losing that battle.  We are in danger of watching large segments of our nation give way to authoritarian extremism,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, (NCLR) told the Blade in a phone call Wednesday.

The Arizona abortion legislation mirrors a Mississippi law now being considered by the nation’s high court. The bill explicitly says it does not overrule a state law in place for more than 100 years that would ban abortion outright if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that enshrined the right to abortion in law, NBC News reported.

“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life — including preborn life,” Ducey said in a signing letter. “I believe it is each state’s responsibility to protect them.”

Ducey is an abortion opponent who has signed every piece of anti-abortion legislation that has reached his desk since he took office in 2015. He said late last year that he hoped the Supreme Court overturns the Roe decision, the Associated Press noted.

In 2014, then-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed an anti-LGBTQ+ bill in Arizona because she said it divided the state, did not address any specific or present concern for Arizonans, and would lead to adverse legal and economic consequences for the state. She also called for “greater respect and understanding among ALL Arizonans.”

Two Republican governors, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, vetoed anti-trans sports bans similar to SB 1165 last week, rejecting the discriminatory bills approved by their legislatures. The governors cited high suicide rates among transgender youth and concerns over legal challenges, which have followed similar laws in other states.

Also on Wednesday Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law Senate Bill 2, a bill which would restrict transgender girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.

“While the problems transgender and nonbinary youth cause communities are hypothetical, the harms these laws will cause them are very real. We’re talking about a group of marginalized young people who have consistently been found to be at greater risk for bullying, depression, and attempting suicide — and 85% say recent debates around anti-trans laws have even further negatively impacted their mental health,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy & Government Affairs. “Today alone, on the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility, three anti-trans bills were signed into law across the country. This onslaught is not an accident; it is overwhelming by design and in direct response to progress in the fight for trans rights. But the Trevor Project will continue supporting our young people while we continue the fight against these policies. We are here for you, and we are not going anywhere.”

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