Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoes Republican student pronoun bill

May 22, 2023, 8:00 PM

Pins about gender pronouns, used to represent a story about Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoing a bill...

(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced Monday that she vetoed a Republican bill that would have restricted transgender students’ ability to go by their preferred pronouns and names at school.

“As politicians across the country continue to pass harmful legislation directed at transgender youth, I have a clear message to the people of Arizona: I will veto every bill that aims to attack and harm children,” the Democrat said in a veto letter dated Friday.

“I want to thank the young people that bravely testified against SB1001 at the Legislature. To you, I promise to be an ally and uplift your stories.”

Hobbs specifically thanked Rep. Lorena Austin, the state’s only nonbinary gender-nonconforming lawmaker, for sharing their experience while speaking out against the bill.

“We’re talking about a community that has been marginalized and misunderstood, and what we’re asking for is understanding of the different experiences that we may have,” Austin said on the House floor while the bill was being considered.

“And I can tell you as a young person, if this bill had come through when I was in high school, it would have terrified me. I was already terrified of knowing I would not be accepted.”

The bill, which the Legislature passed along party lines, was limited to students under 18. It said that unless parents provided written permission, school employees or contractors couldn’t call a student by pronouns that didn’t align with the child’s biological sex or a name that wasn’t listed in official school records. Commonly known nicknames were excluded.

The bill also would have prohibited schools from making staff use pronouns that didn’t align with a student’s biological sex if it was against the employee’s religious or moral convictions.

Sen. John Kavanagh, the Republican who introduced SB1001, said it was meant to protect the rights of parents and protect the mental health of students. He called Hobbs’ veto “reckless and irresponsible.”

“If a child is receiving mental health care and that child’s physician advises not to treat the child as a different gender, then a school going against the doctor’s wishes without the parent’s permission would create reason for a lawsuit,” he said in a press release. “This is a dangerous situation for children who are struggling with mental health issues.”

Republican lawmakers across the nation have been introducing, and in some cases enacting, restrictions on pronoun use by teachers.

Opponents say the laws violate the constitutional rights of students and teachers by compelling the speech of adults and potentially exposing children to dangerous repercussions if an abusive parent doesn’t approve.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoes Republican student pronoun bill