This article was published on January 31st, 2022
In a bid to continue the Trump administration’s push against LGBTQ+ rights, Florida Republicans are currently in discussions to forbid the discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in schools in a new bill that activists say endangers the lives of children and is similar to earlier laws sought by conservatives to remove queer discussions from classrooms.
Known statewide as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, it has gained traction nationwide and is currently being called out by the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. If the bill is passed in the GOP-controlled system, it would silence students and staff from discussing their LGBTQ+ family members, friends, neighbors, and public figures. The bill emerged after critical race theory began a national debate over how Americans schools would teach students in the future about race, gender, and history. The current re-examination of the public education system has led to many American books being banned from school libraries.
What’s Included in the Proposal
Under its current status, the bill would remove classroom discussion about “sexual orientation and gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” If violations were compromised, parents could sue school districts.
Representative Joe Harding submitted an opposing bill that would give kids the freedom to discuss LGBTQ+ people and its history. His bill is designed to give parents more control over what their kids learn and stops a district from silencing a percentage of the school population. Under the Harding sponsored bill, schools would be able to teach about Pride Month, the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, as well as the 49 people killed by a gunman in Orlando.
The History of LGBTQ+ Measures in Florida
The Florida current proposal echoes several state laws passed mainly in the late 1980s and early 1990s that aimed to restrict discussions of LGBTQ issues in public institutions. The current proposal in Florida has been designed to create a greater discriminatory effect as it leaves the responsibility up to each parent to enforce the law.
Under the proposed system, teachers would be fearful of speaking out for fear of lawsuits, which could also result in classrooms that are not as safe or inclusive. The move would obviously be harmful to LGBTQ+ students and their families, placing a stigma on the group as well as labeling them as dangerous.
According to surveys, a large percentage of LGBTQ+ kids in Florida report hearing homophobic remarks, with 69% being verbally harassed based on their sexual orientation. Last year, a few other states – notably Tennessee, Arkansas, and Montana – passed new laws which required parents to be notified about any LGBTQ+ issues and giving them the right to opt out of the discussions. A similar bill was recently vetoed in Arizona. These were just a few of the anti-LGTBQ+ bills throughout the country, with 25 enacted in 10 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
As conservative bills continue to work their way through key states, HomoCulture will keep you updated with the latest information and how to get in contact with your local representatives.