Log in

SB 1001

East Valley lawmakers at center of House debate over LGBTQ ‘pronoun’ bill

Posted 4/4/23

PHOENIX – Lawmakers representing Mesa and Tempe argued Monday against a bill  that would forbid teachers from honoring requests by students to be addressed by a pronoun different from …

You must be a member to read this story.

Join our family of readers for as little as $5 per month and support local, unbiased journalism.

Already have an account? Log in to continue.

Current print subscribers can create a free account by clicking here

Otherwise, follow the link below to join.

To Our Valued Readers –

Visitors to our website will be limited to five stories per month unless they opt to subscribe. The five stories do not include our exclusive content written by our journalists.

For $6.99, less than 20 cents a day, digital subscribers will receive unlimited access to YourValley.net, including exclusive content from our newsroom and access to our Daily Independent e-edition.

Our commitment to balanced, fair reporting and local coverage provides insight and perspective not found anywhere else.

Your financial commitment will help to preserve the kind of honest journalism produced by our reporters and editors. We trust you agree that independent journalism is an essential component of our democracy. Please click here to subscribe.

Charlene Bisson, Publisher, Independent Newsmedia

Please log in to continue

Log in
I am anchor
SB 1001

East Valley lawmakers at center of House debate over LGBTQ ‘pronoun’ bill


PHOENIX – Lawmakers representing Mesa and Tempe argued Monday against a bill  that would forbid teachers from honoring requests by students to be addressed by a pronoun different from their biological sex absent parental consent.

They were unsuccessful as Republican lawmakers in the House Appropriation Committee advanced the legislation sponsored by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills.

"The child belongs to the parent, not the government,'' said Rep. Theresa Martinez, R-Casa Grande, in voting for SB 1001, which was sent to the full House for a vote. "I cannot imagine having to co-parent my child with the government.''

Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said that's fine in situations where children have supportive families.

But she said there are studies showing 70% of transgender children do not have that situation. And Salman said "33% of trans and non-binary youth don't believe and don't find their current home to be a safe space to do that in, especially for a first time.''

Kavanagh, whose district includes Scottsdale, said notifying the parents ensures that the students get whatever professional help they need, including for depression and suicide. And he said requiring permission to be addressed by a different pronoun is no different than what occurs now in connection with school activities.

"If your kid wants to go on a school trip, they need permission from the parents,'' Kavanagh told committee members. 

"If your child wants to be on a sports team, they need permission from the parents,'' he continued. "If your child wants to take an aspirin in school, they need permission from the parents.''

But Kavanagh's bill, which has passed the Senate, does not ensure that a parent's affirmative desire to have a child addressed by a pronoun - or even a proper name - that does not match biology actually gets honored. It says that request can be trumped by the teacher's "religious or moral convictions.''

"We're trying to balance the rights of two parties,'' he said in an interview with Capitol Media Services. And Kavanagh said he presumes that "pretty much everyone else'' at the school would be honoring the rights of the parents.

"I don't think it's a major violation of the parent's rights,'' he said.

"I know what this bill is,'' said Rep. Lorena Austin, D-Mesa.

"This bill is a nationwide agenda that targets and attacks a vulnerable population, and that is our youth,'' said Austin who uses "she'' and "them'' as her pronouns and identifies "as non-binary, non-gender conforming.''

"It aims to suppress and intimidate them,'' Austin said.

She also took a swat at colleagues who said that while parents may not understand, they won't kick the child out, calling that "absolutely, unequivocally false.''  Austin said that those in the LGBTQ community are the largest share of unhoused teens.

Kavanagh sought to portray the measure as one designed to help

"In youth, especially adolescence, issues around gender are always problematic and cause a great deal of angst,'' he said. Being transgender, Kavanagh said, only makes all that more pronounced.

"The psychological problems that can go along with this can be depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts, especially if they have a condition called gender dysphoria which some have when the conflict is very extreme,'' he said, referring to the unease someone may have because of a mismatch between biological sex and gender identity.

"These are students who need family support,'' Kavanagh said. "These are students who need outside psychological care that the family can provide for them.''

Austin, for her part, said it is bills like this that cause the angst to which Kavanagh refers.

She told of knowing her true identity at age 5.

"I grew up in a community where I knew I would not be accepted, I knew I would not be supported in my home or in public,'' Austin said.

"I need you to hear that,'' she continued. "This is my lived experience.''

Other transgender individuals also testified against the measure.

Jeanne Woodbury of Equality Arizona told lawmakers that sometimes a student seeking to come out to parents, even those who may be accepting, may still find it "intimidating.''

"When you're a little bit afraid, what's helpful is to talk to someone like a teacher ahead of time and have that conversation and try things out in a safe space so you can actually prepare yourself to go have the conversation with your parents,'' Woodbury said.

"What makes the teacher more appropriate to ask or talk to than anyone else,'' Martinez asked. She said it's equally possible a teacher might be a "devout Catholic or a devout whatever'' who does not believe that things like this are a matter of choice.

"It's not guaranteed that, even going to a teacher, you're going to find support,'' Woodbury acknowledged. "But if you face rejection from a teacher, the stakes are lower than if you face rejection from a parent.''

Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, said he understands the concerns.

"As a member of the LGBT community, I just can't imaging having to live a separate life at school and a different life at your home,'' he said. "And I understand that is the tragic reality that many members of the LBGT community face.''

But Gress said there's an overriding issue.

"I just can't get to the point where I'm willing to allow government employees to have additional information on a child,'' he said.

"The children belong to the parents,'' Gress said. "Parents have rights when it comes to their kids. They do. And to sever that relationship through public schools or other institutions, very serious.''

Gress said he introduced HB 2084 which he said would provide $5 million for a family support program he said would help parents have these conversations with their children.

"More dialog is necessary, not less dialog,'' he said. But the measure never got a hearing after Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, R-Peoria, who chairs the House Education Committee did not put in on her agenda.

Kavanagh said there are other good reasons to ensure that parents know if a child wants to be called by a name or pronoun that does not match his or her biological sex.

One, he said, is that the parent may have the child in treatment and the therapist may counsel that it is psychologically bad to allow him or her to be referred to by a non-matching name or pronoun.

And Kavanagh said there could be a lawsuit against the school if a child does commit suicide and the parent didn't know he or she was being referred to by a pronoun that doesn't match biology.

We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.