MONTGOMERY — State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) filed legislation on Tuesday banning taxpayer-funded Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) departments in Alabama.

The bill would prohibit state agencies, local boards of education, and public colleges and universities from maintaining a diversity, equity, and inclusion office or department or sponsoring any diversity, equity, and inclusion program or program that advocates for a divisive concept.

"There are schools around the state, public institutions of higher education, and Troy (University), for instance, does not have a DEI program, and yet their diversity level is far and away higher and better than some of the other institutions. That is addressed in the bill and the language. We hope to continue to work with all members to the best of our ability to make sure there are no unintended consequences," Barfoot told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

Barfoot said in committee on Wednesday he hoped the bill would be on the Senate floor on Thursday.

The  bill would prohibit public entities from "promoting, endorsing, or requiring affirmation of certain divisive concepts relating to race, sex, or religion." 

Similar legislation introduced by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) passed the House in 2023 but didn't receive a vote in the Senate.

Democrats will likely filibuster the legislation.

"You're trying to destroy every black person in this state. You're trying to destroy them. That's what you're doing. If you don't think that this critical race theory bill doesn't wipe us out as a race…it wipes us out. It wipes everything that has been accomplished by African-Americans or the avenues and the valleys that are open for them to have an opportunity in this state is wiped out," State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said on the Senate floor on Tuesday after the legislation was filed.

State Sen. Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery) mentioned he might resign from the Senate over the legislation in committee on Wednesday.

“I’m just tired. This has been going on now since the session began,” Hatcher said in committee. “I’m praying about a letter that I penned to resign from the Senate. I can’t do things like this.”

The legislation would prohibit certain public entities from conditioning enrollment or attendance in certain classes or training based on race or color. This bill would authorize certain public entities to discipline or terminate employees or contractors who violate this act. This bill would provide that some circumstances regarding accreditation, academic instruction, student groups, and other scenarios are not prohibited. 

"We shouldn't be forcing or teaching to children that one race or sex or religion is better than the other. Those are just some of the divisive concepts that are listed in there," Barfoot said.

He continued, "There is specific language in there that encourages and authorizes, continues to authorize the teaching of historically-accurate history, and certainly, I think that is a fabric of what has made Alabama from a history standpoint...the good, bad and the ugly. I don't think we need to gloss over that. We need to teach that. We need to talk about the bad times that have happened in Alabama and the inequitable treatment that certain citizens of the state of Alabama have had. We need to talk about that. More than we talk about it now and this bill certainly does not prohibit that."

The bill has 25 Republican co-sponsors in the Senate.

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