On Thursday, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill that will protect teachers from repercussions if they are unwilling to use a transgender student's preferred name or pronouns.
According to House Bill 1749, which was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Mary Bentley, employees of public schools "shall not be required to use a pronoun, title, or other word to identify a public school student as male or female that is inconsistent with the public school student's biological sex."
Additionally, the legislation would allow an employee of a public school to file a legal claim for relief if they face "adverse action" for calling a student by the wrong name or pronoun, The Blaze reports.
During debate on the house floor, Bentley explained that the bill's purpose is to protect teachers who are scared to face litigation for "not using a certain person's pronoun."
"It's not compelling anyone's speech; it's not prohibiting anyone's speech," Bentley contended. "It's helping those professors and teachers in our schools that do not want to be used for not using a certain person's pronoun."
She added that the legislature should do more in protecting parents and teachers. Nevertheless, her bill is the first step.
"Districts definitely need to look at this and do more," Bentley continued. "This bill is a simple bill. It has already been affirmed by the appeals court and the sixth district. All this is, is protecting our teachers, and they do feel threatened."
The bill passed the House 61-21 and will now head towards the Senate. Two Republican lawmakers, however, sided with Democrats in opposition to the legislation.
Democratic Rep. Megan Godfrey argued that the bill emboldens teachers who are "intentionally misgendering students and therefore are intentionally severing their relationship".
Rep. Fred Love, another Democratic lawmaker, made the case that calling a transgender person by their name or pronoun demonstrates respect for that individual.
"Refer to someone as they choose to be referred to," he said. "That's not hard. That's not difficult. That's just a bit of decency and a bit of respect, and I think that's what we need to do."
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.