RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Senate Bill 49, known as "Parents' Bill of Rights" continued its advancement through the state Senate on Thursday, where it was passed by the Committee on Healthcare.
The legislation, which was filed on Tuesday, is 11 pages and would prohibit the inclusion of instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality in curriculums for kindergarten through fourth grade, though it would still allow responses to student-initiated questions on such topics. Furthermore, it would make learning materials visible to parents, allowing them the ability to review which books children check out of the library, requiring them to be informed of changes to a child's name or pronoun in school records, as well as mandating their consent for "protected information survey," which could include questions such as political affiliation and sexual behavior.
"This legislation outlines what rights parents already have. So it clarifies for schools that they cannot take the place of parents. But it also encourages the schools to enable parents to be involved in the education of bringing up their own children, a right that's fundamental in America," said Tami Fitzgerald, the Executive Director of NC Values Coalition.
A similar effort last year, HB 755, failed to become law, though Fitzgerald has been encouraged by ongoing conversations with lawmakers in both chambers.
"I think parents across the state have made it clear that they expect something to be done to protect their rights to educate their children according to their values," Fitzgerald said.
However, much like what took place when HB 755 was proposed, critics have expressed concern about the content of the legislation.
"Personally it's almost like I'm being targeted. Why does the government want to oppress lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people? Is there something wrong with us? What's bad with us? It sends a signal that we're not valued, that we're not important, that we're not equal Americans," said Stan Kimer, who owns Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer.
Kimer said he believes the legislation is too broad and sends a negative message.
"To have a law that says this can't be included in the curriculum does send a signal that there is something wrong with being LGBT," said Kimer.
He also is fearful of the effect it could have on the business community, pointing to the fall-out from HB2, known as the 'bathroom bill' in which several companies paused or reversed plans in the state.
"20% of adult Gen-Z'ers now identify as LGBT, which shows the talent pool is getting more and more diverse. So companies are really stepping up their efforts in DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), and that includes keeping track of what states are doing legislatively," said Kimer, sourcing the findings of a Gallup survey from February 2022.
Kimer further said he believes it could prevent some people from opting to move or relocate to the state, arguing that the bill's backers are putting politics over economic development.
"Our legislators really do need to focus on the right things that we need to do to have strong economic development, to recruit the very best talent to this state, and to really grow. And I think this is really going to set us back," Kimer said.
Fitzgerald pushed back on that assertion, dismissing any comparisons to HB2.
"It's absolutely ridiculous to think a bill like this would have anything to do with chilling a business environment in North Carolina. We're the top-ranked state for business in two different business rankings and that's because we have a low tax rate, we have a good workforce, and we have a great place to live and work. And a bill like this just makes it even better for families to come to North Carolina. So we welcome this type of legislation," Fitzgerald said.
Republicans won a veto-proof majority in the state Senate in November but fell one seat short of doing so in the House. In a statement to ABC11 regarding the legislation, Gov. Roy Cooper, a, Democrat, wrote:
"Parents are critical to the success of our schools and their participation should be welcomed and encouraged, but the last thing we need is to force the 'Don't Say Gay' culture wars on our children and our state. We know from seeing the harmful impacts of the bathroom bill how much legislation like this hurts people and costs North Carolina jobs."