Anti-LGBTQ disinformation targets Connecticut bill

·3-min read

A bill passed in Connecticut aims to update the US state's definition of "sexual orientation" in non-discrimination statutes, but a local advocacy group claims the legislation would protect pedophiles. This is false; lawmakers and independent experts say the measure does not mention pedophilia or enable criminal behavior.

"Contact your Senator today to oppose expanding CT's Anti-Discrimination law to Minor Attracted Persons (MAP)s," says a May 18, 2023 article from the Family Institute of Connecticut, a group that advocates against same-sex marriage and abortion.

<span>This screenshot taken May 24, 2023 shows a headline published by the Family Institute of Connecticut</span>
This screenshot taken May 24, 2023 shows a headline published by the Family Institute of Connecticut
Scroll to continue with content

Similar claims circulated on Instagram and Twitter after the Connecticut House of Representatives passed House Bill 6638 (HB 6638) with strong bipartisan support on May 9.

The legislation (archived here) aims to revise the definition of "sexual orientation" in the state's non-discrimination statutes.

"House Amendment 'A' specifies that 'sexual orientation' includes any identity that a person is perceived by another person to hold, relating to the gender or genders to which a person is romantically, emotionally or sexually attracted," says an analysis (archived here) from the Office of Legislative Research (OLR).

But the bill's co-authors and independent legal experts told AFP the posts misinterpret the legislation, which as of May 25 had not cleared the Senate.

"The claims made online that this updated definition of sexual orientation 'includes identities whose underlying behavior would be a sex crime' is ludicrous," said Representative Dominique Johnson, the bill's Democratic co-sponsor.

"States that have more recently added 'sexual orientation' to their protected classes or that have updated their definitions like we're trying to do here in Connecticut don't have language invoking criminal statutes."

The legislation's other co-sponsor, Democratic Representative Jeff Currey, added that "attraction to things like plants" or minors "would absolutely not be protected because neither 'attraction' has anything to do with gender."

No protections for pedophiles

Kyle Velte, a law professor at the University of Kansas who focuses on LGBTQ rights, confirmed the Connecticut bill "is not intended to offer protections to pedophiles."

Instead, Velte said the proposal fixes the "problematic notions" of the state's definition of sexual orientation, which does not currently include identities "such as asexual, polysexual and pansexual."

GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, also recommends avoiding the term "sexual preference" because it suggests "being gay, lesbian or bisexual is voluntary and 'curable.'"

Some of the confusion online may stem from the fact that the OLR analysis says Connecticut's current definition of sexual orientation "expressly excludes any behavior that is a sex offense crime."

Clifford Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah, said the bill "removes outdated language suggesting that the state does not 'condone' LGBT people and that being LGBT is a criminal offense."

However, he said that state law "strictly prohibits anyone from engaging in sexual activity with a minor" and that "nothing in HB 6638 changes that."

The American Psychological Association (APA) says pedophilia is a mental disorder, not a sexual orientation.

Arthur Leonard, a professor at New York Law School who specializes in LGBTQ rights, told AFP that pedophilia "is not regarded by courts to be 'sexual orientation,' and sex between adults and minors is outlawed in every jurisdiction in the United States."

AFP contacted the Connecticut Republican Party for comment, but a response was not forthcoming.

More of AFP's reporting on misinformation about the LGBTQ community can be found here.