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Whenever I report on an organized protest or demonstration, I find myself focusing on the signs people brought with them.
I’m not talking about professionally printed signs. I’m talking about the ones that were handmade, sometimes hastily, with varying degrees of artistry and penmanship.
Supporters & opponents of SB 272 (parental bill of rights in education) rallied this a.m. outside NH State House in Concord. Now a hearing is underway on the legislation, which would force schools to disclose info to parents about students' gender expression. #nhleg #nhpolitics pic.twitter.com/mv6r2iGGd2— Steven Porter (@reporterporter) April 18, 2023
Sure, I’ll listen to the speeches and chants to hear details about the crowd’s motivations. But the signs are where I find a punchy distillation of why people are speaking up. There’s not much room for context or explication. Whatever they scrawled in marker points to the crux of the controversy as they see it.
So when I showed up yesterday at the State House to cover dueling rallies — one for those who oppose a parental rights bill that’s pending in the House, and the other for those who support it — I found myself scanning the signs over and over to get a sense for what about this legislation is animating its opponents and proponents alike.
Seen on signs among opponents of the bill, which would require New Hampshire schools to disclose information about a child’s gender expression to parents upon request:
- “Do vulnerable kids have rights?”
- “Forced outing endangers lives”
- “Kids need protection, not outing”
- “Defend trans kids”
Seen on signs among the bill’s proponents, who contend the measure reasserts the rightful role of parents in the upbringing of their kids:
- “We don’t co-parent with the government”
- “Work with parents, not against them”
- “Support parents, not secrets”
- “Parents rights NOW!”
These signs obviously don’t parse the legislative details of Senate Bill 272. But they offer a snapshot of the emotional stakes. While some back this bill as a tool to force school personnel to collaborate with parents, advocates for LGBTQ youth warn this legislative approach will undermine trust and lead to “Orwellian” in-school surveillance.