Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills in the 2023 Rhode Island Legislative Session
The Rhode Island legislature should resist dangerous anti-transgender proposals and remain a leader on LGBTQ+ equality.
Rhode Island has been a leader in recognizing the humanity and equality of LGBTQ people for decades and was the second state in the U.S. to comprehensively protect transgender people. The residents of this state are proud of that legacy.
As we are seeing a sweeping campaign of attacks targeting transgender young people across the country, Rhode Island has the opportunity and responsibility to lead once again, by saying no to attempts to bring this dangerous and disingenuous campaign to our state.
A strong partnership between Rhode Island parents, schools, and youth is important to ensure all students can learn in a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment.
But a slate of bills modeled on out-of-state legislation threatens to disrupt that partnership and target students.
The Rhode Island legislature should lead once again, resist all these dangerous attacks and oppose the following bills with harmful proposals, including:
- Censorship of curriculum or discussion in schools in ways that would be unworkable for teachers and severely limit students’ ability to learn the richness and complexity of American history, or to learn about or discuss topics relating to LGBTQ+ people, people of color, and other historically marginalized identities (H 5739)
- Provisions that would exclude transgender students from participating in school life and severely limit their education, from banning trans kids from playing on the school soccer team with their friends to restricting their use of school bathrooms (S 0391, S 0487)
- Several bills that threaten schools and teachers with penalties for not complying with vague requirements to allow virtually any individual parent to dictate school lesson plans, as well as bills aimed at removing teachers’ and school staff’s ability to support LGBTQ+ students in school. (H 5756, H 5688, S 0179, S 0352, S 0414)
- A provision in an otherwise well-intentioned anti-bullying bill that would restrict students’ freedom of movement and harshly limit their ability to express themselves, contrary to Supreme Court precedent. (H 5499)
These bills distract from the central purpose of our public schools — to ensure all Rhode Island young people can learn, develop critical thinking skills, and grow into thriving adults who contribute to their communities.
We all want schools where students can learn in a safe, healthy, and supportive environment. Research shows that an inclusive and welcoming environment creates better educational outcomes for all students. And the evidence is in: Rhode Island has been able to successfully support transgender students and non-transgender students under current law.
Parents play a fundamental role in the education of their children. But that’s not what these bills are about – they are part of a nationwide attack aimed at barring transgender youth from participation in school life.
We’ve already seen real-world examples of how bills like these are hurting young people in states like Florida and New Hampshire. They are causing teachers to stop addressing anti-LGBTQ and racist bullying out of fear, erasing LGBTQ+ students and families from the classroom, and banishing books that can provide important stories for students as they figure out who they are.
We’ve also seen how even debating dangerous anti-LGBTQ proposals such as these harms young people’s well-being, increasing anxiety and depression.
That’s not Rhode Island’s legacy, and it’s not what our students deserve.
You can find a printable version of this statement here.