A Florida bill that would limit classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity and encourage parents to sue schools or teachers that engage in these topics is speeding through the state House and Senate.
It’s being called a “Don’t Say Gay” bill by LGBTQ advocates, who fear that if this bill is signed into law, it could act as a complete ban on the lessons on LGBTQ oppression, history and discussions about LGBTQ identities.
Below, we break down more details surrounding the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, officially known as HB 1557/SB 1834, and ways you can help lawmakers oppose such harmful measures.
So What is it?
The two bills in the state legislature, HB 1557 and SB 1834, state that a school district “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
The House Education & Employment Committee has moved the bill forward, handing it off to the Judiciary Committee.
It adds that parents who violate this rule can sue, seeking damages and reimbursement for attorney fees and court costs.
Rep. Joe Harding, who is the sponsor of the legislation, hopes it will “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing & control of their children,” according to the bill’s text.
Has the bill been signed into law?
No. A Republican majority Education & Employment Committee passed the bill in the Florida House, and now it’s been handed off to the Judiciary Committee.
What have LGBTQ+ advocates said about the bill?
Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said the bill would ultimately fuel stigma and accused Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, of playing politics at the expense of young Floridians.
“The Don’t Say Gay bill is yet another cog in the governor’s Surveillance State agenda — a slate of dangerous, bigoted bills designed to allow the state government to police every aspect of our lives,” Brandon Wolf, Equality Florida’s press secretary, said in an email. “While the bill is intended to race Donald Trump to the right and curry favor with an extremist political base, it has real world consequences. It would further stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate already vulnerable young people, and chill attempts to create inclusive school environments. It is dangerously bigoted and will do immense harm to marginalized Floridians.”
Florida’s bill is similar to laws in some states that prohibit positive and affirming representations of LGBTQ people in schools, often referred to as “no promo homo” laws. Four states — Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi — still have these laws on the books, according to GLSEN, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ students. Three states also passed bills in 2021 that allow parents to opt students out of any lessons or coursework that mention sexual orientation or gender identity, according to GLSEN.
The so-called Don’t Say Gay bill is among a slate of Florida bills this legislative session that target the LGBTQ community, according to Equality Florida.
Chasten Buttigieg, a former teacher who is the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, slammed a Florida bill that would prohibit discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in “primary grade levels.”
In a tweet last week, Buttigieg said the bill “will kill kids.”
“You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in,” he wrote, citing a national survey from The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and intervention group, which found that 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide last year.
“Now they can’t talk to their teachers?” Buttigieg added.
In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Buttigieg said lawmakers and educators should be approaching that statistic from the Trevor Project “with urgency and with compassion and care.”
“In Florida, what kind of state are you building, where you’re essentially pushing kids back into the closet?” he said. “You’re saying, ‘We can’t talk about you. We can’t even talk about your families.'”
How can I help stop this bill from progressing forward?
Equality Florida, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ rights, has started an online petition for individuals to complete. All you have to do is fill out your contact information, click “Send Your Message,” and a pre-written email will be sent to Florida lawmakers. If you prefer, there is the option to personalize your message.