Opinion: Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Taylor Simmons, Staff Writer

Both the Florida State House of Representatives and the State Senate have advanced the “Don’t Say Gay” bill which would restrict how teachers can discuss sexuality and gender in the classroom, the latest effort by Republican lawmakers to remove the teaching of LGBTQ issues from schools. Under the bill, Florida school districts “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 bill doesn’t specify how age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate would be defined. The bill would also give parents the ability to sue schools if they believed the schools violated any provisions of the law. Unsurprisingly, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has given his full support to the new law. When the bill is signed, it is certain to be a topic during the 2022 midterm elections, as DeSantis faces re-election.

Fortunately, many have protested against the bill and experts say the results could be quite damaging to members of the LGBTQ+ community. This bill allows for students’ gender identity and sexual orientation to be discriminated against and treated as a taboo topic that is “not allowed” in the school curriculum. This could lead to bullying, negative mental health impacts, and potential violence against queer students. Additionally, teachers would be required to notify the students’ parents of their sexuality within six weeks of finding out. This is known as “outing”, a dangerous tactic that can lead to homelessness or in more severe cases, suicide.

This bill is especially hurtful and confusing for the state of Florida, a state where the reported LGBTQ+ population was 886,600 (2020) and where Pride events are held in major cities. Orlando suffered from the Pulse night club shooting in 2016. It is the deadliest incident in the history of violence against LGBTQ+ people in the United States, as well as the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11, and was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history until the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.

If signed, the bill is certain to face discrimination lawsuits and force Florida school districts to change their curriculum before the start of the 2023-2024 school year. This would also be a major blow to LGBTQ+ progress and other Republican stronghold states could follow Florida in future years. To help, you can find several online resources and petitions to support queer students and prevent future bills from being introduced.