ARKANSAS, USA — The Arkansas House education committee passed HB1468 on Thursday.
“You cannot force a teacher or a state employee to use whatever somebody believes, thinks, or wants as a pronoun,” said Arkansas Representative Marcus Richmond.
The bill's sponsors say it protects employees’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression at work. And using preferred pronouns could be confusing for students with language barriers.
Rep. Richmond explained, "When you start changing the rules— which is what it looks like for me, then it's going to be impossible for somebody who comes here to pick up English as a second language. So there are rules and words. Our language, a lot of times, the meaning is built into the context in which, how it's used."
Under House Bill 1468 school employees can still use a person’s preferred pronouns if they choose to, but they wouldn’t be penalized for not doing so.
“I don’t believe that anybody is being forced to use preferred pronouns, it's a matter of respect. In any institution you are expected to use the proper names and titles... so when you’re interacting with students, it’s the same," Brynhildre Underwood, founder of NWA Trans Voices.
Representative Richmond says that "An example would be that if I decided that I want everyone to call me god, call me god almighty, call me Jehovah, whatever... Should people be forced to do that because I’ve decided that’s what I want? Or I feel? Or I think? I don’t think so," said Underwood.
Brynhildre Underwood explained, “God is a noun— pronouns are totally different... You don’t interact with society as a God, you interact with society as a man or a woman or something else entirely.”
LGBTQ+ advocates call the bill anti-transgender and say this bill could be harmful to trans youth.
“We are doing our best just to affirm each other to assure our trans siblings that no matter what happens, we are not going to stop fighting, we are not going to give up, as long as we exist there will be hope, and we’re never going to stop existing,” Underwood said.
The bill will move to the house floor early next week, where the house will hear testimonies.
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