Lawmakers in Florida are pushing forward with the "Don't Say Gay" bill, a piece of legalization that seeks to ban discussions around sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.
The Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed Thursday, January 20, in the House Education and Employment Committee. With this go-ahead, the bill now advances to the House floor for a vote.
Together with a companion bill introduced earlier last week, the legislation would effectively ban teachers in Florida from talking about LGBTQ+ topics that are not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” It would also allow parents to sue their child’s school district if they believe their children’s education has infringed on their “fundamental right to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”
The move has been met widespread criticism outside of Republican circles in Florida. Many argue that the bill will foster further stigma, marginalization, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ teens – this itself is recognized as a significant public health threat to people in the LGBTQ+ community due to its profound impact on mental health. This may sound like an abstract battle of the culture wars, but it could have some very real victims.
“This will kill kids,” tweeted Chasten Buttigieg, an LGBTQ+ rights advocate and husband of US secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg, in response to the bill.
The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people, is one of the many groups that has strongly condemned this bill. They argue that the bill contains provisions that could potentially be used to undermine LGBTQ+ support in schools and even features “vague parental notification requirements” which could “out” LGBTQ+ students to their parents without their consent.
They also point out that LGBTQ+ teenagers are at a significantly higher risk of suicide than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Legalization like this, they say, will only deepen the problem.
“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year," Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project, said in a statement.
“This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” they added. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”
Equality Florida, another LGBTQ+ advocacy group, also lambasted the bill, saying that “this legislation is meant to stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate LGBTQ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing a safe, inclusive classroom.”
“This bill will have devastating real-world consequences – especially for LGBTQ youth who already experience higher rates of bullying and suicide.”