Rep. Patricia Morgan, who achieved nationwide infamy for claiming on Twitter she lost her Black friend but “didn't do anything to her, except be white” could only muster one other Rhode Islander to testify at a legislative hearing with her in support of her latest racist and transphobic legislation. At the same time, dozens came out to support Queer youth and speak out against the bill.
On April 11, the Rhode Island House of Representatives Committee on Education heard public testimony on H7539 sponsored by West Warick Rep. Patricia Morgan. The bill would prohibit schools from using the term white supremacy and would bar teachers from referring to students by their pronouns without parental consent. While dozens spoke out against the bill, only one other Rhode Islander joined Morgan in speaking in support of the legislation. Morgan’s bill comes at a time when transphobic and homophobic bills are gaining momentum across the country.
At the hearing, Morgan claimed with this bill she was “seeking to get our school establishment, our educational establishment, to abandon the activist racial and sexualization of our school curriculum.” Claims of the sexualization of school curriculum is a common anti-LGBTQ dog-whistle that seeks to equate all discussion of Queer and Trans lives as a form of recruitment and “grooming” children to be molested. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels organizations, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, that peddle these kinds of falsehoods that equate LGBTQ people with child sexual abuse as anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
References to the LGBTQ community grooming children isn’t always spoken about as a dog whistle anymore. Just as racists no longer try to hide their true intentions in American politics, it is becoming increasingly common for prominent political figures to openly claim homosexuals are grooming children, as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s spokesperson did just last month when the state was passing it’s Don’t Say Gay Bill.
The open use of talk of grooming children is used specifically to try to silence opponents of this legislation with many claiming opponents are supporters of pedophilia. Based on the public outcry Morgan’s bill faced at the hearing, the false claims that LGBTQ advocates are defenders of child molestation does not appear to have worked in the Ocean State. According to in-depth reporting from UpRise RI, 35 people spoke out against the legislation.
Testimony included statements from LGBTQ youth, students of color, and members of the community from across the state. Jackie Goldman, who recently wrote for Options, summed up why opponents of the bill were there that night: “LGBTQ kids and youth of color deserve to have safe schools where they can get to be who they are.”