Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30 why she opposes a bill restricting sex and gender content in schools. A second meeting for public testimony is scheduled Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30 why she opposes a bill restricting sex and gender content in schools. A second meeting for public testimony is scheduled Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Public gets another chance to opine on ‘parental rights’ bill

Supporters hoping for bigger presence than first meeting when 90% of testimony opposed proposal

Backers of a so-called “parental rights” bill are trying to make a second public testimony meeting Thursday night less lopsided than the first five-hour meeting two weeks ago, when roughly 90% of the participants opposed the proposal limiting sex and gender content in schools.

The proposal introduced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy is one of the most controversial this session since it contains many similarities to the “don’t say gay” bills that are fueling intense confrontations nationwide. It requires parental approval for a child to be addressed by a different name or gender pronoun, prohibits sex and gender references before the fourth grade, requires parents “opt in” for sex education in later grades, and requires students to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender classified at birth.

Thursday’s hearing in House Bill 105 by the House Education Committee is scheduled at 5:15 p.m., with public comments limited to those who have not already testified on the bill during the first hearing. About 125 people spoke during the marathon meeting March 30, a majority of whom were educators and/or LGBTQ+ residents.

For the encore the effort to recruit supporters of the bill includes the person who presided over the first meeting, state Rep. Jamie Allard, an Eagle River Republican who co-chairs the committee and showed glimpses of exasperation during the March meeting. At one point she told those waiting to testify they should read the bill since it’s about “parental rights” and twice disconnected people testifying online who suggested lawmakers supporting the bill had anti-LGBTQ+ motives.

“The media has misled the public about the realities of HB105, provoking inflammatory responses and outrageous accusations that the bill somehow endangers and discriminates against gender non-conforming students,” Allard wrote in a social media message urging supporters to testify.

Opponents of the bill also are active trying to get like-minded people who have not testified to do so Thursday. Hundreds of comments for and against the bill have also been submitted in writing to the committee.

But all of the arguments may be moot since the leaders of the bipartisan Senate majority of nine Democrats and eight Republicans have said there aren’t enough votes in that chamber to pass the bill.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com

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