“This bill is just a first step to help protect our teachers but when we have students in school now that don’t identify as a boy or a girl but as a cat, as a furry, we have issues,” Rep. Mary Bentley (shown) said Thursday in presenting her bill that would require public school employees to address students only by the name and sex designated on the student’s birth certificate. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)
Arkansas teachers wouldn’t be required to address students by a name or pronoun inconsistent with the student’s biological sex under proposed legislation that passed Thursday in the House, one of the latest of several measures in the state Legislature that human-rights advocates say targets transgender people.
The vote on House Bill 1749 came two days after lawmakers prohibited hormone treatments, puberty blockers and transition-related surgeries for transgender minors.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who vetoed the bill only to see it overridden by Republican supermajorities, faced sharp criticism again Thursday afternoon, this time from former President Donald Trump.
In a written statement, the one-term president accused the two-term governor of being a “RINO” — a Republican in Name Only. A spokesman for the state Republican Party rejected the assertion.
BILL ON IDENTITY
Lawmakers who opposed HB1749, as well as LGBT-rights advocates, say it protects teachers who intentionally misgender students who are transgender, which sponsor Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, has acknowledged would be the case.
The House’s 62-21 vote, which was mostly along party lines, sends the measure to the Senate. Two lawmakers voted present, and 14 didn’t vote. Two Republicans, Rep. Frances Cavenaugh of Walnut Ridge and Rep. Jeff Wardlaw of Hermitage, voted no, and Rep. Spencer Hawks, R-Conway, was excused.
Hutchinson has expressed concerns about the latest proposal.
“This bill is unnecessary,” he said in a written statement Thursday. “I am requesting my Department of Education to further evaluate.”
Bentley said some teachers had raised concerns to her about students who have changed their name or pronoun several times in a year, or use three different names in as many classrooms, and fear that they’ll be sued for not addressing the child by their preferred name or pronoun.
“It’s not compelling anyone’s speech. It’s not prohibiting anyone’s speech. It’s helping those professors and teachers in our schools that do not want to be sued for not using a certain person’s pronoun,” Bentley said.
Two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Fred Love of Little Rock and Rep. Megan Godfrey of Springdale, spoke against the bill.
Love said intentionally not referring to someone by what they want to be called is “one of the most disrespectful things that you can do.
“That’s one of the simplest decencies that we can give someone. … That’s not hard. That’s not difficult. That’s just a bit of decency and a bit of respect and I think that’s what we need to do,” Love said.
Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, spoke for the bill and mentioned a situation at the residential Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, where a “male student who wanted to be called by a female name” was voluntarily referred to that way by teachers, but administrators were instructed to refer to the student by the student’s given name when talking to the child’s parents.
Lowery said “not letting a parent know what their own child is going through shows that we have a problem.”
“This bill does not specifically address the example I’m giving you but it does put a spotlight on the fact that it is something that needs to be addressed, and so I think that a good starting point would be to vote for this bill,” Lowery said.
Godfrey said, “There’s nothing more critical than a positive relationship between a student and a teacher, especially kind of at those adolescent grades” with regard to student achievement.
She said teachers who intentionally misgender students are severing that vital relationship.
Bentley said schools should do more to address things like students changing their name between classes or identifying as an animal.
“We have a real issue in our state, and I need our districts to take a look at this and do more than this bill does,” Bentley said. “This bill is just a first step to help protect our teachers but when we have students in school now that don’t identify as a boy or a girl but as a cat, as a furry, we have issues.”
Some members of the House Education Committee said Tuesday that those concerns weren’t something they’d heard from teachers.
In response to a question from committee member Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, Bentley said no teacher had been sued for not using a student’s preferred name or pronoun in Arkansas as of Tuesday.
Richelle Brittain, a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law who is transgender, said at Tuesday’s committee meeting that the bill violates Title IX as interpreted by President Joe Biden’s administration. An executive order that Biden signed last month states that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination based on gender identity.
“This bill targets trans kids. It is aimed at protecting intentional misgendering of our kids,” Brittain said.
Bentley said in committee that a student’s biological sex would be determined by the registration forms submitted at the beginning of the school year, which don’t include a space for preferred pronouns.
The bill doesn’t specify that schools would determine a student’s biological sex based on the form, but Bentley said she would be happy to amend the legislation to do so on the Senate side.
HB1749 is one of several measures passed by or advancing in the Arkansas Legislature that are seen as targeting transgender individuals.
Act 461, which the governor signed into law in March, would ban schools from allowing transgender girls and women from participating on the sports teams aligning with their gender identity.
House Bill 1882, which was filed this week, would allow government entities to be sued for permitting a person to use a restroom designated for a sex different from the sex a person was assigned at birth.
House Bill 1570, the ban on gender-affirming treatment for transgender minors, was enacted Tuesday when the Legislature voted to override Hutchinson’s veto.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson subsequently criticized Hutchinson for opposing the bill, suggesting — without offering any evidence — that the governor was acting at the behest of Walmart or the Walton family.
The Walton Family Foundation, he noted, had backed Hutchinson’s decision.
In a written statement posted Tuesday on its website, Tom Walton, the foundation’s home region program committee chairman, had voiced alarm about “the string of policy targeting LGBTQ people in Arkansas.”
“This trend is harmful and sends the wrong message to those willing to invest in or visit our state,” the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton had written.
“We support Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s recent veto of discriminatory policy and implore government, business and community leaders to consider the impact of existing and future policy that limits basic freedoms and does not promote inclusiveness in our communities and economy,” he wrote.
On his program Wednesday, Carlson suggested Hutchinson hopes to one day serve on the Bentonville-based retailer’s board.
In a written statement Thursday, Hutchinson said Carlson’s comments were false.
“It is irresponsible for Tucker Carlson to make baseless claims without any evidence or truth to back them up,” Hutchinson said.
“If I have been offered any corporate board seats then please let me know because that is news to me. Let me be clear, I have almost two years left as Governor of this great state and that is my focus,” he said.
“In terms of my decision making as Governor, I am not influenced by any pressure other than the weight of my convictions and the concern I have for the people of Arkansas,” he said.
The veto also drew fire from Trump.
“Asa Hutchinson, the lightweight RINO Governor of Arkansas, just vetoed a Bill that banned the CHEMICAL CASTRATION OF CHILDREN,” Trump said in a written statement released Thursday.
“‘Bye-bye Asa,'” that’s the end of him!,” the former president wrote. “Fortunately for the Great State of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders will do a fantastic job as your next Governor!”
In a written statement, Hutchinson shrugged off Trump’s criticism.
“Forty years ago when I started my fight to build the Republican Party of Arkansas I was called ‘a right wing extremist.’ I was simply a conservative then and remain a conservative now,” he said. “Today, as then, I am less concerned about monikers and more concerned about principle and the direction of our nation. Our party was built upon ideas, civil rights, individual liberty and restraints on government. Hopefully, we can debate our ideas with respect and through civil discourse.”
In a text message, Sanders would not say whether she shared Trump’s view of Hutchinson, but voiced support for the bill he vetoed.
“I believe in limited government, but there is a role for us to protect those who can’t protect themselves, especially children, which is why this law is important and I support it,” she wrote.
Hutchinson, while supporting Trump’s reelection bid, broke with the president after it became clear that Democrat Joe Biden had won.
He opposed efforts to overturn the decision of the Electoral College, and said Trump bears “a great deal of responsibility, key responsibility, for what happened at our nation’s Capitol on January 6.”
Hutchinson has also said he would not support a Trump presidential bid in 2024.
Republican Party of Arkansas spokesman Seth Mays dismissed allegations that Hutchinson is a RINO.
“That seems like a pretty hard claim to make,” he said, recalling Hutchinson’s service as an impeachment manager during the Senate trial of President Bill Clinton and his efforts, as state party chairman, to ensure that the state would pay for Republican primary elections.
“The state of Arkansas literally has Republican primaries, because the Republican Party of Arkansas, under its then-chairman Asa Hutchinson sued the state of Arkansas for the state to pay for primaries, [maintaining] that they were not an expense of the party. So that seems like a pretty hard claim to make.”Rep. Megan Godfrey (shown) said the bill would sever the vital positive relationship between a student and a teacher. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect bill number. House Bill 1570 is the ban on gender-affirming treatment for transgender minors.
The Arkansas State House yesterday voted 72-21 in favor of letting public school science teachers “teach creationism as a theory of how the earth came to exist.” As if we needed another indication of how little respect Arkansas lawmakers have for students…
It was a party line vote, with every Democrat against it and every Republican for it. (One Democrat and six Republicans didn’t vote at all.)
This is the work of State Rep. Mary Bentley, a Republican, who filed HB 1701 last month.
The short bill defies (or completely ignores) the Supreme Court’s ruling against the teaching of Creationism since everyone knows it’s all about advancing religion instead of teaching credible science. As we know, the Earth doesn’t exist because God poofed it into being a few thousand years ago. The Bible may say that, but the Bible is lying to you.
Bentley tried doing this in 2017, too, but got nowhere with it. That bill died in the House. The current version just passed the House. (Bentley is a graduate of Harding College, a Church of Christ-affiliated school, so science education isn’t in her wheelhouse.)
It’s possible the new bill will breeze through the Republican-dominated State Senate because it purposely avoids mentioning Intelligent Design or evolution — and says teaching Creationism is optional. But giving teachers that choice doesn’t make it okay. It shouldn’t be acceptable for a public school teacher to brainwash your kids with utter bullshit during class.
Not that Bentley cared. She posted this on Facebook last night:
Creationism is Christian fiction. It sure as hell isn’t science. The only thing this bill would accomplish is inspiring a raft of successful lawsuits against it.
Why the G.O.P. doesn’t need to try to pass mostly unpopular policies through the elected branches.
Not so long ago, Republicans had one of the most ambitious legislative agendas of any political party in modern American history.
Devised by the former House speaker, Paul Ryan, the so-called Ryan budget sought to reduce much of the nation’s social safety net to ashes. Congressional Republicans planned to slash Medicaid spending and food stamps. In the most aggressive version of Mr. Ryan’s proposal, Republicans would have replaced Medicare with “premium support” vouchers that could be used to buy private insurance, and then reduced the value of this subsidy every year — effectively eliminating traditional Medicare over time.
But all of that has changed. The Ryan budget is a relic. At their 2020 national convention, Republicans didn’t even bother to come up with a new platform.
Yet while the party appears to have no legislative agenda, it’s a mistake to conclude that it has no policy agenda. Because Republicans do: They have an extraordinarily ambitious agenda to roll back voting rights, to strip the government of much of its power to regulate, to give broad legal immunity to religious conservatives and to immunize many businesses from a wide range of laws.
It’s just that the Republican Party doesn’t plan to pass its agenda through either one of the elected branches. Its agenda lives in the judiciary — and especially in the Supreme Court.
From 2011, when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and denied President Barack Obama a governing majority, until the pandemic forced legislators’ hands in 2020, Congress enacted hardly any major legislation outside of the 2017 tax law.
In the same period, the Supreme Court dismantled much of America’s campaign finance law; severely weakened the Voting Rights Act; permitted states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion; expanded new “religious liberty” rights permitting some businesses that object to a law on religious grounds to diminish the rights of third parties; weakened laws shielding workers from sexual and racial harassment; expanded the right of employers to shunt workers with legal grievances into a privatized arbitration system; undercut public sector unions’ ability to raise funds; and halted Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Now, a 6-to-3 conservative-majority Supreme Court is likely to reshape the country in the coming decade, exempting favored groups from their legal obligations, stripping the Biden administration of much of its lawful authority, and even placing a thumb on the scales of democracy itself.
Many of these changes would build on decisions handed down long before President Donald Trump reshaped the Supreme Court. The court, for example, first allowed employers to force workers to sign away their right to sue the company — locking those workers into a private-arbitration system that favors corporate parties — in a 2001 case, Circuit City v. Adams. But the court’s current majority is likely to make it much harder for workers and consumers to overcome these tactics. In Epic Systems v. Lewis (2018), Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s majority opinion favoring an employer that forced its employees to give up their right to sue.
Similarly, in the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held that businesses seeking a religious exemption from a law may have it — holding, for the first time, that such exemptions may be allowed even when they diminish the rights of others. That case permitted employers with religious objections to birth control to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees, even though a federal regulation required employer-provided health plans to cover contraception.
Before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court, however, a majority of the justices were very reluctant to grant religious exemptions to state regulations seeking to limit the spread of Covid-19. Yet after she became a justice, the court’s new majority started granting such exemptions to churches that wanted to defy public health orders.
It’s plausible that the Republican Party did not campaign on its old legislative agenda in 2020 because it was busy rebranding itself. Under Mr. Trump, Republicans attracted more working-class voters, while Democrats made gains in relatively affluent suburbs. So Mr. Ryan’s plans to ransack programs like Medicaid aren’t likely to inspire the party’s emerging base.
And yet the court’s conservative majority is still pushing an agenda that benefits corporations and the wealthy at the expense of workers and consumers.
It’s easy to see why government-by-judiciary appeals to Republican politicians. There’s no constituency for forced arbitration outside of corporate boardrooms. But when the court hands down decisions like Circuit City or Epic Systems, those decisions often go unnoticed. Employers score a major policy victory over their workers, and voters don’t blame the Republican politicians who placed conservative justices on the court.
Judges can also hide many of their most consequential decisions behind legal language and doctrines. One of the most important legal developments in the last few years, for example, is that a majority of the court called for strict new limits on federal agencies’ power to regulate the workplace, shield consumers and protect the environment.
In Little Sisters v. Pennsylvania (2020), the court signaled that it’s likely to strike down the Department of Health and Human Services rules requiring insurers to cover many forms of medical care — including birth control, immunizations and preventive care for children. And in West Virginia v. E.P.A. (2016), the court shut down much of the E.P.A.’s efforts to fight climate change.
Yet to understand decisions like Little Sisters and West Virginia, a reader needs to master arcane concepts like the “nondelegation doctrine” or “Chevron deference” that baffle even many lawyers. The result is that the Republican Party’s traditional constituency — business conservatives — walk away with big wins, while voters have less access to health care and breathe dirtier air.
By legislating from the bench, Republicans dodge accountability for unpopular policies. Meanwhile, the real power is held by Republican judges who serve for life — and therefore do not need to worry about whether their decisions enjoy public support.
It’s a terrible recipe for democracy. Voters shouldn’t need to hire a lawyer to understand what their government is doing.
Ian Millhiser is a senior correspondent at Vox and author of the book “The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court Is Reshaping America.”
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I am really loving this science channel on YouTube. Hugs
This is an informative read. Thank you to Cagjr for sending it in the comments. I worry about this attempt to instal a white theocracy in the US. Hugs
A bill in the Tennessee legislature would prohibit the state from approving textbooks and instructional materials that contain LGBTQ+ content.
The bill, H.B. 0800, was introduced by Representative Bruce Griffey (R – District 75) and will be considered by the Education Instruction Subcommittee on March 30.
It says that public schools should focus on teaching subjects like reading, science and mathematics. It also says that LGBTQ+ content is inappropriate for the classroom and that it can offend a significant portion of school communities that have Christian values.
The bill goes on to suggest that LGBTQ+ issues should be treated with the same restrictions as religious teaching in public schools.
“LEAs (local education agencies) and public charter schools shall not locally adopt or use in the public schools of this state, textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender issues or lifestyle,” the bill says.
If passed, it would go into effect July 1 and apply to the 2021 – 2022 school year.