New bill bans adult-led discussion on sexual orientation, gender identity for Utah’s K-3 students

Feb 23, 2023, 5:42 PM
Utah Capitol building...
Utah Capitol building. (KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill in Utah’s legislature would ban adult-led “discussions or instructions” on sexual orientation and gender identity for Utah’s school kids younger than third grade.

Last year Florida banned similar conversations and Disney World threatened to leave the state over it. HB550 has similar language.

The bill aims to ensure that “[local schools] classroom instruction or discussion that an educator or other adult leads on sexuality, including sexual orientation or gender identity…[does not occur]…in kindergarten through grade three, or in a manner that is not age or developmentally appropriate.”

New bill not modeled after Florida, lawmaker says

“I didn’t look at the Florida bill or try to model after the Florida bill,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jeff Stenquist (R-Draper). “I just tried to model it after something that was common sense.”

Stenquist said he wanted to run HB550 after a woman in his district came to him about an educator discussing topics with her child in school “that she felt were a little inappropriate.” He later brought it to legislative drafters.

“They said [Utah] doesn’t really have this spelled out, they did say well there is language that Florida used, they mentioned that, but I didn’t say ‘let’s do what Florida did,’ that was never my intention.”

Equality Utah’s response

Equality Utah called the bill “worrisome and unnecessary.”

“It appears Rep. Stenquist has copy and pasted Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams said. “Utah schools don’t teach sexual orientation or gender identity in K-3. Also, the Utah legislature already overturned a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law in 2017 with a near unanimous vote.”

He added, “the only purpose this bill will accomplish is to inflame the culture wars with another exhaustive attack on LGBTQ children.”

Stenquist said the purpose of HB550 is to “give educators guidelines” around sensitive topics.

“When there are topics discussed in schools of sexuality [or] gender identity, things like that, that it simply be age appropriate discussion. That’s really the essence of the bill.”

It’s not clear if the bill will even be heard in the legislature. As of Thursday afternoon it had yet to be assigned to a committee.

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New bill bans adult-led discussion on sexual orientation, gender identity for Utah’s K-3 students