Gay
Opinion

Say it: GAY

The deceivingly titled ‘Parental Rights in Education’ bill has passed the Florida Legislature, restricting LGBT topics in schools. Instead of promoting free speech, Florida Republicans have criminalized LGBT topics in education, giving the bill its nickname, ‘Don’t Say Gay.’

Florida has yet again made national headlines in Republicans’ endless pursuit of culture war issues above all else. The latest battleground is over HB 1557, the ‘Parental Rights in Education’ bill, nicknamed by its opponents as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill.

Due to misinformation campaigns by top Republican operatives and clickbait, there is much confusion about the actual contents of the bill. Now, let us break down the contents of the bill, discuss its polarizing support and opposition, and what it means in the larger context.

The Bill

The Parental Rights in Education Bill is a confusing mess of fluff as it attacks on educators and further attempts to erase the LGBT community.

The majority of the bill plays into the Republican talking point about parents’ involvement in their children’s schooling, starting largely with mask mandate policies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of the bill discusses parents’ rights to know what their child is being offered and taught, notifying parents if there is a “change in the student’s services.” Also, the bill requires “parental notification of and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health,” fulfilling campaign promises to involve parents more in school decisions. 

Provision 3 of the bill, however, explicitly targets gender and sexuality. It states that classroom instruction “on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

Children are taught from a young age that the heterosexual, nuclear family is ideal. It is only considered a gender and sexuality discussion when it includes LGBT people, who form an increasingly large percentage of our population.  

Furthermore, this bill allows parents to sue a school district if they believe a school is violating this exclusive provision. Parents could be provided “award of injunctive relief, damages, and reasonable attorney fees” if an instructor is deemed to be teaching content not age-appropriate for students, putting our underpaid teachers under further pressure and surveillance.

Opposition and Support

In 2022, LGBT inclusion is surprisingly still a polarizing issue. This bill has elicited strong support as well as opposition from the media, politicians, companies and citizens.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has not shied away from his support of the bill. When asked at a press conference about his opinion, DeSantis asked back, “How many parents want their kids to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction?” He went on to claim that, “Now, we see a focus on transgenderism, telling kids they may be able to pick genders and all of that.”

Anyone who has been to public school knows that no instructor is ‘injecting’ people with transgenderism – that’s simply not how gender identity works. If citizens were better educated on gender identity, they may be able to comprehend the difference between inclusion and force — something the governor cannot do.

Those close to the governor are even more explicit in their transphobia. DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw took to Twitter to display her support, claiming the bill “would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill.” Linking the LGBT community to grooming and pedophilia is a long-standing trope among bigots and conservatives, persisting to this day.

Human rights and civil rights organizations are nearly unanimous in their opposition to the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union linked it to “hundreds of anti-LGBT bills moving through state legislatures” targeting transgender youth. The Human Rights Campaign highlighted that this bill would “prevent teachers from providing a safe, inclusive classroom for all.”

Americans don’t even seem to support this bill. An ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 62% of Americans oppose the bill. Even 4 in 10 self-identified Republicans oppose the legislation, in addition to Americans from a range of educational backgrounds, ages, races and sexualities. 

This strong opposition can best be displayed in the controversy over Disney. The company donated over $300,000 to Republican senators who support the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, despite profiting off of LGBT merchandise at their parks and stores. 

Immense pressure finally forced Disney CEO Bob Chapek to pause all political donations in Florida, causing DeSantis to label them a “woke corporation” that works with the Chinese Communist Party.

Why It Matters

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill will impact LGBT youth across the state of Florida, limiting education that is inclusive of them and that teaches their peers they are normal. 

No person who is not LGBT will ever understand the pressure and shame gay and transgender youth face in public schools due to a lack of education and support.

When I was a kid, I wish I had the education and support to accept who I was. This bill doesn’t push our society forward but rather attempts to bring us back to a time less inclusive and accepting.

However, this bill is only one part of Florida Republicans’ war over culture. Instead of addressing the condo collapse, rising gas prices, or record housing costs, the legislature has restricted women’s right to reproductive care, limited LGBT discussions in schools and created an elections police force.

Florida Republicans spent months passing a bill restricting LGBT education in schools rather than focusing on the real issues that impact all Floridians. Let’s just hope Florida voters remember this when the midterms come around in November.

Check out other recent articles from Florida Political Review here.

Featured Image: LGBTQ symbols. Unmodified photo from Wikimedia Commons used under a Creative Commons License (https://bit.ly/3NTEKJA).

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