South Dakota lawmakers will consider banning public school teaching on gender identity in elementary and middle schools, a push that critics say targets transgender students in the same way some states limit the positive portrayal of homosexuality in the classroom.

The state would be the first in the nation to block instruction on gender identity or gender expression, said Nathan Smith, public policy director at GLSEN, a national group focused on safe schools for LGBTQ students. But the organization recently counted seven states with restrictions on positively portraying homosexuality in health classes, sometimes called "no-promo-homo" laws. The states are Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

"It's maybe a little different in the way that it's crafted and maybe a little different in the way, sort of the population that it targets, but the underlying concerns are the same for us as they would be in ... a traditional 'no-promo-homo' law," Smith said. "We think that it's bad broadly for LGBTQ students in South Dakota."

LGBTQ students in states with such laws are more likely to face assault and harassment at school, and get less support from teachers and administrators, according to a GLSEN research brief.

South Dakota's bill would cover public school students from kindergarten through seventh grade. Education Department spokeswoman Mary Stadick Smith said in an email that the she's not aware of gender identity being taught in schools.

Republican Sen. Phil Jensen, the sponsor, said he has constituents concerned it might become an issue in schools. Jensen said he's worried about teaching children topics that aren't age-appropriate and that students are failing to master the basics.

"I think we need to be focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic," Jensen said.

GLSEN isn't aware of any other states considering a bill like South Dakota's, Smith said. States including California, Massachusetts and Washington have moved in the opposite direction.

Washington included gender identity as an optional topic for districts to teach in recently revised health learning standards. For example, it suggests kindergarten students understand there are many ways to express gender and third graders recognize the importance of treating others with respect regarding gender identity, which is defined as someone's inner sense of their gender.

Officials had heard from teachers, parents and national health experts interested in students understanding and being aware of gender identity, said Nathan Olson, spokesman for Washington's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The Washington state office doesn't track how many districts are teaching the new "self-identity" topic, which took effect for the current school year. In California, a 2011 law mandates including disabled and LGTBQ people in history and social science lessons.

Massachusetts lawmakers in 2011 barred discrimination against public school students based on gender identity. Jeff Perrotti, director of the Massachusetts Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, said some schools in the state are teaching gender identity and expression in the classroom.

 
 

Massachusetts' program, which is part of the state's education department, conducts training for school personnel about how to talk about gender identity with students, faculty and community members. Perrotti said the state's health curriculum framework will likely be updated to include the concept of gender identity.

Mimi Lemay said the Massachusetts district where her 7-year-old transgender son, Jacob, goes to school is improving at including others as parents have pushed the issue. Lemay said a mother last year organized parents to get a basket of books about diversity in local elementary school classrooms, including "I Am Jazz," a picture book about a transgender child co-written by Jazz Jennings, a transgender YouTube personality who has a TLC show.

Teaching about gender identity is critical for transgender children, and it's important for their classmates, who will grow up accepting their peers, said Lemay, who speaks to schools and companies about making them safer spaces for LGBT people.

"Being transgender is innate. It is who you are, and learning about it in school will only make your child more compassionate and empathetic and tolerant," she said. "It's not going to make them transgender, and I think every parent wants a child who is capable of compassion and open-mindedness."

The South Dakota bill could face an obstacle in Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The Republican recently said that he doesn't "know that our standards of education are properly the subject of legislative enactments."

Daugaard in 2016 rejected a bill that would have required transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their sex at birth. Supporters scuttled a similar proposal last year after he threatened to do it again.

Terri Bruce, a transgender man who fought against the past bills, said the new proposal would have unintended consequences and send a message to transgender children that "they are somehow not human."

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Alabama, saying the state discriminates against transgender people who try to get a drivers license or state-issued ID. Alabama requires proof of gender reassignment surgery in order for transgender residents to get a state-issued ID that matches their gender identity.

“The government has no business dictating what treatment transgender people get, especially as a prerequisite for a basic government service,” the ACLU said in a statement on Tuesday. “After all, it has nothing to do with how people drive.”

The lawsuit, which is similar to successful suits has filed by the ACLU in both Alaska (in 2011) and Michigan (in 2015), seeks no monetary remuneration but only that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency drop the proof of surgery requirement.

It was filed on behalf of three transgender residents of Alabama: Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark, and an unnamed third plaintiff.

The ACLU states that, while some transgender individuals undergo gender-confirmation surgery, others either choose not to, or cannot due to the high cost of the procedure. According to Julie Ebenstein, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, 80% of transgender individuals in Alabama do not have a state-issued I.D. that reflects their gender identity, AL.com reported.

“For transgender people with IDs that do not match their gender, everyday experiences can become fraught with fear,” the ACLU is arguing. “Each instance of showing ID could lead to inconvenience, embarrassment, discrimination, or violence.”

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) issued the “Resource Guide on Gender Designation on Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards” in 2016. It has guides on “simplified gender designation change forms” and recommends having confirmation from a medical professional, rather than proof of surgery. According to the AAMVA, nine states, including Alabama, require proof of surgery.

Fortune contacted the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency for comment about this suit and will update as necessary.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order that bans all New York state agencies and authorities from conducting business with companies that tolerate or promote discrimination.

"With this executive order, New York reaffirms our commitment to protecting the rights of everyone," Cuomo said in a statement. "We will enforce our robust protections against discrimination, and continue to build on our legacy of protecting all of us, not simply some of us."

The Democrat also said he's supporting legislation that will ban the use of a "gay panic" defense in which a person charged with attacking someone attempts to blame the victim's sexual orientation for a violent reaction.

The proposal would make New York the third state in the U.S. to bar the rare defense. Illinois did so in January, and California barred it in 2014.

Cuomo said his moves are in response to the Trump administration's actions, which Cuomo said have rolled back civil rights protections, including those for members of the LGBTQ community.

Cuomo initially announced the anti-discrimination initiatives Saturday night at the annual Human Rights Campaign gala in Manhattan.

"The Trump administration gave the attorney general a license to discriminate by interpreting 'religious liberty' protections in the federal law," he said in his HRC speech. "What that means is a business can refuse to serve LGBTQ individuals because it violates their religious beliefs. They did that. So, today I'm signing an executive order prohibiting New York state government from doing any business with any entity that discriminates against any New Yorker, period."

"New York will fight every action this federal administration takes that attempts to undo progress we have made," Cuomo said in a statement. "We believe America was founded on the premise of uniting people from different countries, religions, and colors, and we welcome diversity under the enlightened understanding that it is not a weakness but rather our greatest strength."

New York public high school students had the day off Monday, but a group of about 630 students and teachers still gathered at Stuyvesant High School. They were participating in city’s first Gender and Sexuality Alliance summit, sponsored by the local Department of Education.

In the school’s auditorium, student whispers echoed from wall to wall. On stage, openly gay former professional football player Wade Davis told how he spent years as a closeted athlete, before eventually coming to terms with his sexual identity.

“When did you learn you were enough for yourself?” a teenager timidly stood up to ask him.

“Honestly, I’m still learning if I’m being honest,” Davis responded. 

It’s been a bleak year for LBGTQ youth around the country. Hate crimes against LGBTQ people have creeped upwards. The Trump administration has worked to actively dismantle the rights of trans students

But in New York, the education department has been working to help LGBTQ students better advocate for themselves.

The summit was organized by the city school district’s first LGBTQ community liaison, Jared Fox. It featured dozens of workshops on topics such as interacting with police, body image, grassroots organizing, and consent in sexual encounters. Classrooms were labeled with names of LBGTQ icons, like author James Baldwin and tennis star Billie Jean King. A school hang out spot became a coffee shop named for feminist writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde. 

In a workshop hosted by LGBT New York Police Department officers, teens asked officers about their experiences being gay in the force.

“There’s a stereotype of what are you doing here, this is not the place for you,” said officer Aaron Ayala, before telling the students about the department’s internal fraternal societies.

“Ours is an adult GSA” (Gay-Straight Alliance club), Ayala said.

The day’s participants included middle school students. They did not have the day off from classes, so they attended as a field trip.

The afternoon’s events topped off with a drag queen story hour, dance party, and appearance by New York’s first lady, Chirlane McCray. 

“The number of young people who felt inspired and adults who never could have imagined something like this happening in their lifetimes was amazing,” Fox said.

A transgender Cincinnati teenager wants hormone therapy and to remain living with his grandparents.

The teen's parents denied that he is transgender and refused to let his counseling at Cincinnati Children's Hospital continue.

Now, a Hamilton County judge will decide what’s best for the teen.

According to a complaint filed in juvenile court, the now-17-year-old's parents prefer Christian therapy over hormone therapy.

The teen has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and gender dysphoria.

"My client deserves a loving and supportive home.My client deserves some hope in his life," attorney Tom Mellott said.

Documents reveal that the teen claims he feared for his safety while living at home with his mother and father.

"A reasonable parent, however, your honor, would never tell their own child to kill themselves because they were going to hell anyway. A reasonable parent would never instill terror into the mind of their child," said Donald Clancy, an attorney for the state.

The grandparents were in the courtroom Friday, advocating to have the teen remain in their custody.

"They are the only family members that have provided acceptance and support that most probably kept this child from taking his own life. Excuse the melodrama, your honor, but these people are heroes," Clancy said.

Court records reveal the parents pulled their child from counseling at Children's Hospital to seek a Christian therapist. They also forced him to listen to Bible Scriptures for six hours or more at a time.

"The child has stated, 'I don't want to go back home. When I was home, dad chased me around the house. When I was home, I lived in terror,'" said Jeff Cutcher, an attorney for the grandparents.

"Pretty much everything the parents say or don't say is taken out of context, twisted, exaggerated, blown out of proportion and then improperly used against them," said Karen Brinkman, an attorney for the teen's parents.

Attorneys for the teen said the child cried and screamed in the fetal position when he saw his birth name on documents, and that the best option is to hand custody to his grandparents.

"Your honor, what we want to do in the coming months is, around May, plan for a high school graduation; throughout the summer and fall, plan for entrance into college. We don't want to be planning a funeral," Cutcher said.

A judge plans to issue a decision on the case no later than Feb. 16.

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