Why Do We Care About Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill?


Elizabeth Liatsos, Staff Writer

On Monday, March 28, 2022, the “Parental Rights in Education” Bill, more commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” was officially signed into law in Florida. The bill, among other things, restricts both a teachers’ and students’ right to talk about sexuality or gender expression until it is deemed “age-appropriate.” It is strictly prohibited from kindergarten to 3rd grade, and after that, there is gray area. 

Supporters of this law say the bill allows parents to know more about what is happening in their child’s classroom and lets them introduce their children to LGBTQ+ topics. 

But why is there a debate about how children should be exposed to different forms of love? The LGBTQ+ community is about love and respect, loving who you want to love, loving yourself, and respecting those whose love differs from your own.

Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, said that teaching young children that “they can be whatever they want to be” is inappropriate. DeSantis also said that teaching children to love themselves was not appropriate. 

Some say that being open to kids about the LGBTQ+ community sexualizes them, but in reality, it’s the opposite. Claiming that being gay is sexualizing minors is, in fact, the homophobes sexualizing them. They are the ones implying that there is something impure about being gay when all everyone else wants is to be able to love freely. 

Declaring that all gay people are groomers, which is what a lot of people suggest when the topic of LGBTQ+ relationships comes up, is not only homophobic, but also diminishes the experiences of victims of groomers. It also makes it much easier for actual predators to abuse people. Throwing the word “groomer” or “predator” around when talking about people who are not diminishes the value of the word until it is just noise with no meaning. The goal of the people in the LGBTQ+ community is not to turn your cisgender, heterosexual children gay. It is to make sure the children in the community live.

The issues with this bill are not just societal, they are unconstitutional. In the Supreme Court case, Keyishian v. Board of Regents, the court ruled that a string of New York laws intended to keep communists and other “subversives” from becoming teachers or professors was unconstitutional. This was because the laws were too vague to enforce. The example in the case from the 1960s could even be interpreted as a teaching of the Declaration of Independence illegal. 

Similar issues have been pointed out in the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill states that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties 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 in accordance with state standards.” However, the bill does not say what age exactly is “age appropriate,” nor does it express what “classroom instruction” is. 

Teachers in Florida have spoken out about this. Some say that their students aren’t concerned about sexuality or gender expression at an elementary age. But, talking about families is in the curriculum. Teachers have no way of knowing if they’ll be violating a law by talking to their students who may have two moms or two dads about their families. 

One history teacher interviewed by NPR said he didn’t know if he could teach that a Revolutionary War hero, General Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben, was discharged from the Prussian Army because he was gay. 

Hearing stories like these, about how America won against the most powerful army at the time, because of a gay man, can help empower LGBTQ+ students. Representation is minimal enough, there is no reason to take away the miniscule amount that currently graces the classroom.

Other teachers are worried about their own lives. Gay teachers don’t know if they’re allowed to talk about their partners in class. Straight teachers have no problem talking about their weekends and lives outside of school, but LGBTQ+ teachers may not have that liberty. 

42% of LGBTQ+ adolescents have considered attempting suicide in the past year, according to a study done by the Trevor Project. This number drops significantly when there is one single supportive adult in the teenager’s life. Oftentimes, this adult is at school if the student’s home life is not supportive. But under this new law, teachers could be penalized for offering such support. The law is taking away the support and lives of LGBTQ+ teenagers. 

Of course, enforcing this law will only be in regard to the LGBTQ+ community. People tend to forget that heterosexual and cisgender are still sexual and gender identities. Yet, they’re not seen as inappropriate. This law was born of hypocrisy. The law won’t be enforced for anyone talking about their heterosexuality, or adhering to society’s views of gender. It’s only troubling when you’re acting as something “abnormal.” 

The most troubling part of the bill however, is that it encourages other states to do the same. This is not an isolated incident, other states are now trying to pass bills of their own like the one in Florida. In an age that is finally becoming more accepting of everyone, a few privileged people are trying to take away the minimal freedom that everyone has to be themselves. It’s a step backwards, not forwards. 

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https://www.vox.com/2022/3/15/22976868/dont-say-gay-florida-unconstitutional-ron-desantis-supreme-court-first-amendment-schools-parents https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/04/florida-dont-say-gay-bill-children-mental-health 



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