TV board dismisses Marshall’s request to allow parents to shield kids from LGBTQ characters

·3 min read
Mariam Zuhaib/Associated Press file photo

The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board dismissed a request from Sen. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas, asking them to update their ratings system so parents could shield their kids from LGBTQ characters.

In a letter responding to Marshall and four other senators, Charles Rivkin, the chairman of the board, argued that parents were satisfied with the current accuracy of television ratings. He pointed to a 2020 national survey that found 95% of parents said they were satisfied with their accuracy and 80% said they had a favorable opinion of the ratings system.

He also said shows with sexual activity are rated more maturely and include an “S” descriptor if they have sexual situations.

“Measures like these coupled with our survey results and viewer comments that regularly reflect a favorable opinion of the TV Parental Guidelines affirm our belief that the current descriptors accurately reflect the content on TV and provide parents with a meaningful tool to assess television content,” Rivkin said.

The TV parental guidelines provide parents with information to help them decide if a show is appropriate for their children. The guidelines were prompted by a 1996 law that asked the entertainment industry to create a voluntary rating system for television.

Asked about the letter, Marshall called it “ambiguous.”

“It was a very ambiguous response,” Marshall said “’Thank you for the letter.’ And that was about it.”

Earlier this month, Marshall and four other Republican senators — Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Braun of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota — wrote the monitoring board, asking them to update their ratings based on parents concerns about sexual orientation and gender identity on television.

They specifically brought up concerns about gender dysphoria, which is a medical diagnosis for the conflict people feel when the outward appearance of their gender doesn’t match how they feel inside.

“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 said.

The letter implies adults are harming children by exposing them to LGBTQ characters, a trope that’s been used against the LGBTQ community since the 1970s. It references a Disney executive who said she would like to see more LGBTQ characters in their programming.

Conservatives have launched a coordinated campaign against Disney for speaking out against a Florida law that forbids public schools from classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade and allows parents to sue school districts if they believe instruction in higher grades is not “age appropriate.”

Opponents of the legislation argue it will have a chilling effect on teachers in schools, effectively preventing them from mentioning a same-sex partner or recognizing if a child has gay or transgender parents.

Disney’s pledge to attempt to overturn the Florida law resulted in a spate of legislation in Congress, including a bill by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley to strip the company’s copyright protections. Hawley’s bill has little chance of passing.

Marshall is a vocal opponent of transgender rights.

Last year, he introduced a bill that would make it a federal crime for doctors to provide gender confirmation treatment to anyone under 18. Under the bill, which has not gotten a vote in Congress, any doctors who broke the law would be subject to a maximum of five years in prison.

He celebrated a bill in the Kansas Legislature banning transgender children from playing public school sports leagues matching their gender identity. The bill was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly and the Legislature did not have enough votes to override her veto.

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