Religion wins over LGBTQ+ students' rights (for now).
SB1001, which limits students' chosen pronouns and nicknames, passed the Senate Education Committee. But even if it gets to the governor's desk, it'll be dead on arrival.
During LOOKOUT’s launch month, we are making our weekly newsletters free to all. If you’re enjoying our mission-driven news coverage of LGBTQ+ issues and solutions, consider a monthly or yearly subscription, currently at 60% off till the end of January.
In a win for religious conservatives in the Arizona legislature, the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Ken Bennett (R-Prescott) , moved forward with a bill that would defer to people’s religious viewpoints over students’ and parents’ rights.
In a 4-3 decision, the committee moved forward with SB 1001. The bill gives a religious exemption to teachers, contractors and school staff who have a sincerely held belief against trans individuals’ existence from referring to students by their preferred pronouns or nicknames, even if parents give a signed permission slip saying they are allowed to.
Sen. Christine Marsh (D-Paradise Valley) during the committee hearing called the bill “hypocritical” and argued the bill sounded like it was “for parental rights sometimes, but not other times.”
She grilled the main sponsor of the bill, Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), and asked him if he could name one example of when a teacher’s religious belief trumped a student’s individual rights.
He said he couldn’t think of any, and instead gave examples of students exercising their own religious beliefs.
Marsh also said she worried the bill invited religion inside schools.
But the most misguided testimony from the public came from recently elected Peoria School Board member Heather Rooks, who won her seat in last year’s election. Without evidence, she claimed pronouns were “sexualizing” students, a homophobic trope made by conservatives who assert LGBTQ+ people are grooming school children for sexual acts.
The bill also heard from fringe supporters such as a member from the group Gays Against Groomers, a queer religious organization that has courted the support of far-right candidates who push anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
Though the bill moved forward, it was met with fierce criticism from queer community leaders who testified against the bill. In the Senate hearing room were teachers and elders of the community who argued with lawmakers to not pass the bill, which also mandates parents be notified if a child asks to be addressed by a name or pronoun different than the one listed on their birth certificate.
“In grade school, all I wanted to do was to be a girl; When I told my parents, all I got was conversion therapy,” said Sadie Redfern, a veteran fifth-grade teacher who is part of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. “As a teacher, I understand the need for safe spaces…If you want to help make absenteeism decrease, if you want to make academic success increase, requiring teachers to out LGBTQ students does exactly the opposite by removing that important support.”
For current trans students, said that if this bill passes it will cause an increase in more mental health problems for trans students, not solutions.
“If this bill had been around when I first started telling my friends and my teachers about my pronouns, I would have gotten a ton of backlash from home,” said Kanix Gallo, a sophomore at Chandler High School who transitioned at the end of middle school. “I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, around the same time I came out for the first time. And I feel like things would have been so much worse for me if I hadn't been out to my parents and they found out that way.”
Though SB1001 is a win right now for evangelical conservatives, it still has to be approved by the Arizona House and Senate. And it will almost certainly meet its defeat if it ever gets to Gov. Katie Hobbs’s desk, who vowed during her State of the State address to veto any legislation that would strip away rights of people.
"Me trying to commit suicide was not something wrong with me, but with how people were treating me. All you need to do to keep these trans kids alive, is to respect them.”
- Austin D., speaker at SB1001 hearing
On Jan. 26, LOOKOUT is hosting its first listening session for community members to come and discuss what you want reported, and to hear our vision for a more informed and engaged queer community across the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. We invite any and all to join us. Click below to register to our event for free. Space is limited.
EYES ON THE STATE
LOOKOUT's 'Eyes on the State' is brought to you by an exclusive partnership with Equality AZ. Check here every week to see what's being proposed by lawmakers, who are the state power brokers, and context for current and upcoming bills.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW:
1- This bill would create a system for parents to prohibit school counselors from having conversations with students on any topic the parents choose to ban.
2- One clear outcome of this policy would be that parents could ban school counselors from discussing any of the social challenges a queer student might face because of their identity.
3- Some history here: bills extending the reach of parental rights and bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community have a long, intertwined history in Arizona. In 2022, discussions of a similar bill often discussed how school employees should handle conversations with queer students about their identities
THREE THINGS TO KNOW:
1- Whether this bill finds any traction is fully in the hands of speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria). With most of the anti-LGBT+ bills sponsored so far originating in the Senate it's still an open question as to how motivated Toma will be to push nonviable legislation.
2- Alternative gender marker options for identity documents are becoming increasingly common including on US passports and on state-issued documents in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. This bill is an attempt to prevent Arizona from joining in.
3- An identical bill was introduced in 2022 and did not get the votes to move forward
THREE THINGS TO KNOW:
1- During debate on the trans student athlete band passed in 2022, representatives of the Arizona Interscholastic Association testified that in the five years of their trans-inclusive policy, only 16 trans students have asked to play in high school sports. That’s out of over 170,000 total student athletes in Arizona's high schools.
2- Repealing the ban would have no effect on student Athletics but it would restore dignity to trans students hoping to participate.
3- In 2022, the Arizona Legislature passed SB1165, banning trans girls from participating in girls sports in schools
THREE THINGS TO KNOW:
1- Studies from the Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ+ non profit that focuses on harms inflicted on the queer community, show significant harm from family rejection for LGBTQ+ youth when involved in conversion therapy.
2- That harm only intensifies under the therapy, which is recognized as a junk-science religious approach to “fixing” queer dysphoria. The bill in the house continues an ongoing, though failed, effort in the legislature to ban conversion therapy in the state.
3- Our friends at One n’ Ten have this handy guide for parents to understand more on the harmful practice.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW:
1- A House Concurrent resolution is essentially a call to action by the legislature and the voters. Though toothless in its own right, if passed the resolution would repeal the Arizona Constitution's ban on same-sex marriage and replace it with protections for same-sex and interracial marriages, which would then be sent to the ballot in 2024. Though, that timeline could change depending on the speed of the legislature.
2- In 2008 voters approved Prop 102 which added article 30 to the Arizona Constitution defining marriage as a “union between one man and one woman.”
3- Arizona's ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a district court judge in 2014 following the U.S. Supreme Court's United States v. Windsor ruling, which legalized same sex marriage across the nation the year prior. This ballot referral would allow voters to correct state law and create a safeguard for marriage equality in Arizona and the event of a supreme court reversal.
This post is free to all thanks to paid subscriptions from others. Consider subscribing to elevate local LGBTQ+ journalism.
On Jan. 21, Equality AZ is hosting a Civic Advocacy Jam at the Tempe Public Library. More details can be found here.
On Jan. 22, protesters are meeting at the Capitol Lawn to protest the state’s continued push for anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Organizers suggest to dress in drag, bring signs, safety masks, water, and to wear comfortable shoes. More info here.
On Jan. 24, One n’ Ten is hosting a youth game night at their Peoria satellite location. For more information, text “peonenten” to 81010.
On Jan. 26, LOOKOUT will host its first listening session at the Phoenix New Times Office at 6:30 p.m. Participation is free and open to the public and will include a rundown of what LOOKOUT’s yearly mission is, and an opportunity for you to provide feedback as well as give input on what you want in your coverage. Register for the event here.