House narrowly passes anti-LGBTQ Parents Bill of Rights Act

Kevin McCarthy, Elise Stefanik
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, of Calif., right, speaks about the proposed legislation dubbed the “Parents Bill of Rights,” Wednesday, March 1, 2023, next to Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on March 24 voted to approve H.R. 5 — the Parents Bill of Rights Act — which purports to protect parents but ultimately amounts to a major invasion of privacy for LGBTQ youth and other marginalized students.

The bill, which passed 213-208, includes a section stipulating that any elementary school or middle school receiving federal funds would be required to inform parents before a minor’s gender marker, pronouns, or name are changed on any school forms. The bill also states that parents must provide consent before students are allowed to use different locker rooms or bathrooms. 

According to the Congressional Equality Caucus, the bill also includes a provision limiting surveys asking about sexual orientation and gender identity — and requires schools to share survey responses with parents if asked. GOP Congressmember Lauren Boebert of Colorado inserted an amendment into the bill requiring schools to tell parents if a student assigned male at birth participates in women’s sports, according to the New York Times.

The bill’s text shows it would also require schools to post on their website a notice of parental rights, including the right to know “a list of the books and other reading materials available in the library of their child’s school” and to “inspect such books or other reading materials.”

The no votes on the Republican side came from Congressmembers Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mike Lawler of New York, and Matt Rosendale of Montana. The bill was spearheaded by Republican Congressmember Julia Letlow.

H.R. 5 coincides with a nationwide barrage of anti-trans bills and other broader legislative assaults on the LGBTQ community. The bill bears resemblance to the notorious “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” policy championed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Florida’s bill initially targeted elementary grades, but has since expanded to cover all grades of school.

Out gay Congressmember Ritchie Torres of the Bronx condemned the passage of H.R. 5, describing it as “not only wrong” but also “dangerous.”

“Instead of delivering the resources our schools need, MAGA House Republicans’ Politics over Parents Act empowers extremists to impose their beliefs on students,” Torres said in a tweet on March 24. “I recommit today and everyday to the fight for students and LGBTQIA+ youth.”

Equality Caucus Chair Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, also an out gay member of Congress, warned the bill would forcibly out trans students. 

“All children deserve access to a safe and affirming school environment, yet H.R. 5 does not address any of the actual needs of our students, schools, or parents,” Pocan said. “Instead, it targets the wellbeing of LGBTQI+ children. Transgender youth have enough challenges already due to harassment, bullying, and anti-transgender state laws. My colleagues who voted for this bill should be ashamed.”

Although the bill passed the House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said it “will not see the light of day here in the Senate.” 

David J. Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said the bill provides the Republican Party with another vehicle to drive hate and discrimination targeting Black people and LGBTQ individuals.

“This bill is political posturing designed to ignite the Party’s base around anti-woke hysteria,” Johns said. “In this case, the bill would allow parents susceptible to manufactured right-wing paranoia to opt their children out of any education related to race, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The bill and the underlying threats to democracy, civility, and holistic development pose a significant threat to the rights and safety of Black, transgender, and LGBTQ+/SGL students and puts already vulnerable students at additional risk, limiting their access to resources and support needed to thrive.”

The parental rights bill was approved by the Education and Workforce Committee earlier this month. H.R. 734, a separate piece of legislation barring trans student-athletes from participating in sports in accordance with their gender identity, also passed through that committee. 

The Human Rights Campaign said in a press release on March 24 that the full House will likely consider H.R. 734 in the coming weeks.