Utah Sen. Mike Lee and four Republican colleagues are calling for a new TV rating so parents can block their children from watching programs with “disturbing content,” including LGBTQ characters.
In a letter last week to the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, the senators urged the panel to update its warning label system to better inform parents about “mature” subject matter before it is displayed to their children
“In light of parents raising legitimate concerns on sexual orientation and gender identity content on children’s TV shows, we expect the board to fulfill its responsibility in updating the TV parental guidelines to reflect these concerns,” the letter stated.
“In recent years, concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children’s programming, including irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria.”
The letter references a recent video showing an executive at children’s entertainment giant Disney saying she supports having “many, many, many LGBTQIA+ characters in our stories.”
Disney General Entertainment President Karey Burke’s comments were part of a virtual discussion about Disney’s “Reimagine Tomorrow” campaign.
Noting she is the parent of a transgender child and a pansexual child, her full quote was, “We have many, many, many LGBTQIA+ characters in our stories and yet, we don’t have enough leads and narratives in which gay characters just get to be characters and not have to be about gay stories.”
Burke’s remarks also came as Disney voiced opposition to a new Florida law that prohibits classroom instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in certain elementary school classrooms — also known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Florida responded by revoking a 55-year-old arrangement that gave Disney a special tax status and allowed the company to essentially self-govern its 25,000-acre Disney World complex.
The GOP senators say in the letter that to the detriment of children, gender dysphoria has become sensationalized in the popular media and television with radical activists and entertainment companies.
“This radical and sexual sensation not only harms children, but also destabilizes and damages parental rights,” according to the letter.
State Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said in a statement Monday that labeling a gay character on a television show “disturbing content” is divisive, cruel and unacceptable.
“As the only open LGBTQ+ member of the Utah Legislature, does Sen. Mike Lee want to put a warning label on my Senate floor debates? Does the senator want to put a warning label in front of my restaurant or my campaign office?” Kitchen said.
The LGBTQ+ community, he said, is not a “political punching bag.”
“We are people, and we are sick and tired of these offensive antics,” Kitchen said. “Mike Lee wants to put a warning on love. He wants to put a warning on people freely expressing themselves.”
Seeing all kinds of characters, from same-sex parents to transgender kids, on screen is critical for children, said Jessica Dummar, Utah Pride Center co-CEO, to Fox 13.
“Families exist, and one is not better than another,” she said. “Some of those shows my children watch, and I know that they love seeing LGBTQ represented in children’s shows. They’re just so excited because I do have children that are in our community, and I want them to know that it’s OK to love yourself, however yourself is, and not any part of you is obscene.”
Dummar told Fox 13 that if the shows were to have warnings on them, parents might not let their children watch them. They may never see themselves represented on screen, and especially here in Utah, media can help people of all ages accept and understand their own identity, she said.
The TV monitoring board is obligated to ensure the rating criteria helps parents be informed about mature content before it is displayed to their children, the senator wrote.
“In updating the TV parental guidelines, please consider precedent on how the board has rated sexually related, violent and obscene materials to ensure it is applied without ideological bias,” the letter says.
Lee and Sens. Roger Marshall, of Kansas, Mike Braun, of Indiana, Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, and Steve Daines, of Montana, want a response from the board by May 18 as well as an in-person meeting.