March 29, 2023
In an open letter shared with State House leadership today, Rhode Island LGBTQ+ advocates and supporters urged legislators to reject several proposals that will introduce harmful discrimination into state law, particularly directed at LGBTQ+ youth and youth of color. Three of those proposals, H 5859, H 5688, and H 5739, will have hearings this afternoon in the House Committee on Education.
The full letter from advocates follows below:
An Open Letter to Rhode Island State House Leadership:
There is a sweeping campaign of attacks across the country targeting LGBTQ people and especially transgender and non-binary young people. Now, a few Rhode Island legislators are attempting to bring these harmful and discriminatory bills to our State House. We represent a coalition of local organizations and advocates joining together to condemn these attacks and affirm our commitment to protecting the well-being of LGBTQ people and their loved ones in Rhode Island.
We call on Rhode Island’s legislators to reject shameful measures, including H 5859, 5688, H 5499, H 5756, H 5739, S 0179, S 0186, S 0352, S 0391, S 0414, and S 0487 which seek to limit our rights and freedoms.
The bills introduced in Rhode Island focus largely on schools and young people, a strategy played out in other states to create moral panic under the banner of ‘protect the children’. 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 should all be able to agree that a strong partnership between Rhode Island parents, schools, and youth is important to ensuring all students can learn in a safe, supportive and welcoming environment. Research shows that an inclusive and welcoming environment creates better educational outcomes for all students. Rhode Island has long been a leader in supporting all students through its inclusive practices. The evidence is in. We know that we can successfully support our transgender and non-transgender students under existing law.
We know that the bills being introduced in Rhode Island are modeled on legislation being pushed in other states by organized groups dedicated to discriminating against transgender and LGBQ people, and imposing their singular vision for public life across the country. We know that these outside actors, including some designated as extremist or hate groups, are not motivated by the best interests of Rhode Islanders. We know that these outside actors are not motivated by our state’s long history of protecting the humanity and equality of LGBTQ people. The legislators introducing these proposals in Rhode Island, knowingly or not, have bought into the false stories that seek to demonize the LGBTQ community, disrupt our schools, and distract our government’s attention with these non-issues.
Most alarmingly, the groups pushing these harmful bills across the country are continually raising the stakes. This month, we have seen the evidence that their ‘protect the children’ crusade is only the starting point. They recognize that it is the easiest path to rally support for measures that will roll back rights we all currently enjoy. Some of these actors have gone so far as saying their ultimate goal is the complete erasure of transgender people from public life.
It can be hard to understand what it is like to be an LGBTQ person. But, we long ago agreed as a state that LGBTQ people should be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else. We urge our legislators to reaffirm Rhode Island’s values, reject these dangerous proposals, and ensure that our state motto of Hope continues to apply to everyone.
The letter was signed by over 180 Rhode Island individuals and the following community organizations:
Thundermist Health Center
ACLU of Rhode Island
Youth Pride, Inc.
TGI Network of RI
Haus of Codec
Pride in Aging
Rhode Island Queer PAC
Gender and Sexuality Center, University of Rhode Island
LGBTQ Action RI
The Womxn Project
Women’s Resource Center
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
American Academy of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Chapter
RI Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians
Rhode Island Public Health Institute
Open Door Health
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
Community Care Alliance
East Greenwich Pediatrics
Washington County Health Equity Zone
Rhode Island Student Assistance Services
Washington County Coalition for Children
Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights
Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus
Rhode Island Center for Justice
Rhode Island NOW
Rhode Island Atheists
Ryder | Talbutt Group
Radically Thrive Therapy
Newport Partnership for Families
Little Maven Lemonade