Hundreds of Manitobans showed up to hear about two dozen people voice their thoughts on Bill 18, the province's controversial anti-bullying legislation, at the first of a series of public hearings Tuesday night.
At least 317 people have registered to speak at a series of hearings into the proposed public schools amendment act.
The province's standing committee on human resources began hosting the public sessions on Tuesday evening.
A clause in Bill 18 concerns some religious educators and community members because it would require schools to accommodate students who want to start specific anti-bullying clubs, including gay-straight alliances (GSAs).
Among those who attended Tuesday's hearing were those who voiced opposition to the bill, saying it goes against their own beliefs.
Some told the committee they think there is a hidden agenda to normalize homosexuality, which they believe is a sin.
Rob Hiebert said forcing faith-based schools to have gay-straight alliances infringes on the schools' religious freedom.
"(The) gay and lesbian movement that's going on, I believe that that may be having an impact and may be influence into this, and I believe it goes against what my personal, religious beliefs are," he said.
Supporters of the bill include numerous public school boards, the Manitoba School Boards Association and the Manitoba Teachers' Society.
Kristine Barr, a trustee with the Winnipeg School Division, expressed her support of Bill 18 as a private citizen and a member of the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Barr said the current debate reminds her of similar debates regarding human rights and anti-homophobia education 15 years ago.
Another individual speaker, Peter Wohlgemut, told the committee he was threatened two years ago because he had put up an LGBT ally card in his classroom.
Wohlegmut applauds the bill, especially the measures aimed at protecting students who are gay, lesbian or transgendered.
"We have students who hide who they are until they can leave their community and go somewhere (else), where they can be safe," he said. "Our children, our students, deserve better from our schools and from our communities. Bill 18 is a good first step in that direction."
Wohlgemut said while people have the right to their own religious beliefs, they don't have the right to exclude students based on those beliefs.
The hearings will continue Wednesday evening. They are being held everyday this week, starting at 6 p.m., at the Manitoba legislature.
Live blog replay
The CBC's Ryan Hicks tweeted updates from Tuesday evening's hearing: