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GOP senators urge TV ratings board to warn viewers of 'disturbing' LGBTQ content

In a letter, a group of five senators accused entertainment companies of pushing "radical and sexual" content on children.

A group of Republican senators is calling for the country's television ratings system to warn parents about "sexual orientation and gender identity content" on children's TV shows.

In a two-page letter dated May 4, Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., made the request to the chairman of the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board.

The TV Parental Guidelines is a television and film content rating system that Congress, the broadcast industry and the Federal Communications Commission created in 1996 “to give parents more information about the content and age-appropriateness of TV program.” The rating icons — including TV-G, TV-PG and TV-MA — are typically displayed at the top of a screen as a program begins.

“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 reads. "To this end, we strongly urge you to update the TV Parental Guidelines and ensure they are up-to-date on best practices that help inform parents on this disturbing content."

The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board confirmed to NBC News that it had received the senators' letter, but it declined to comment further.

The senators' request comes amid a nationwide discussion over how and when children should learn about LGBTQ issues or identities, as well as an uptick in charged rhetoric surrounding the lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

The debate was fueled earlier this year by a newly enacted Florida law that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Officially titled the Parental Rights in Education law, the measure bans teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity “in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Proponents of the measure have contended that it gives parents more discretion over what their children learn in school and say LGBTQ issues are “not age-appropriate” for young students.

The legislation — which was signed into law in March — prompted weeks of accusations from conservative lawmakers, television pundits and other public figures that the measure's opponents are trying to "groom" children into being gay or transgender.

Wednesday's letter suggested that parents' "rightfully expressed outrage" should be directed beyond the classroom and at broadcasters for creating children's shows with LGBTQ characters and storylines. It also argued that content on sexual orientation and gender identity "harms child actors."

"The motivations of hyper-sexualized entertainment producers striving to push this content on young audiences are suspect at best and predatory at worst," they wrote.

In particular, the senators slammed the Walt Disney Co., which conservatives have targeted in recent weeks since the company's CEO criticized the Florida legislation in March. Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a retaliatory law to eliminate the special district that allows Disney, one of Florida's largest private employers, to self-govern its Orlando-area theme park.

Disney did not respond to NBC News' request for comment.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD, said in a statement that the senators' request for an LGBTQ content warning was part of a "growing trend" of lawmakers "fighting and losing against the growing tide of LGBTQ acceptance."

"What viewers and voters most need a warning about is how this is part of a larger extremist agenda to target their basic human rights," she said. "No one wants to go back in time. We need representatives who support everyone’s right to be themselves and have the same chances to contribute and succeed in American life."

The senators requested the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board to respond by May 18 and urged for members to provide the senators with an in-person presentation on the matter.

CORRECTION (May 10, 2022, 9:10 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the TV ratings issued by TV Parental Guidelines. They are TV-G, TV-PG and TV-MA, not G, PG-13 and R.

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