BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana’s version of the Don’t Say Gay bill cleared another committee Thursday and nears a final debate in the waning days of the legislative session.

The bill essentially would ban discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom and during extracurricular activities. The author of HB466 claims the bill is in defense of kids to protect them from topics their families may disapprove of.

“We are the last line of protection for our children,” State Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, said. “This is meant to protect them from conversations that their parents are having to approve that have no part of the curriculum, has no part of the subject being taught.”

Members of the LGBTQ community say the bill directly targets them by stifling questions and conversations around their community. It also would outlaw Genders & Sexualities Alliances (GSA) groups that many feel are safe spaces for young people to learn about their identities.

“I am happy in my own skin and I am now happy to say that I am a gay woman in the state of Louisiana, and LGBTQ people need that safe space that GSA or that home or anything else that they think is a safe space,” said London Taylor, a student from Baton Rouge.

Those against the bill believe it will lead to children being forced to stay quiet about their identities, potentially worsening suicide rates in those populations.

“This is a hateful piece of legislation because what it does is it impugns. It is just centers (on) ‘I don’t like someone, so therefore we can’t talk,’” Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis said.

Lewis recently was elected to the PSC and is the first openly gay, Black elected official in the state. He said this bill targets him and would make it so discussions about his own life would be banned in classrooms under the bill.

“(At) no time did I ever try to indoctrinate as we keep hearing. But it was a recognition that we’re different and we should cherish our differences. What we are doing here today is debating a piece of bill that says, ‘I want to exclude people,’” Lewis said.

HB81 advanced that would ban the use of a student’s preferred pronouns and name that does not align with their birth certificate. It does allow for parental permission but a teacher could still refuse to recognize a student’s identity.

Both of the bills have until 6 p.m. June 8 to get final approvals and be sent to the governor’s desk.