Florida Lawmakers Advance The 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

don't say gay florida house bill advanced

A Florida House committee advanced the Parental Rights in Education bill, which would prohibit discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom

How do we keep going backwards? On Thursday, January 20, Florida lawmakers in the House Education and Employment Committee advanced HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, AKA the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The measure, along with its companion senate bill, SB 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, effectively erasing LGBTQ history and culture while simultaneously making schools a very dangerous and unwelcoming environment for LGBTQ students.

It also prohibits “school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being,” which, on paper, seems innocuous enough, but could very easily lead to LGBTQ students being outed by school staff to their parents without their consent.

State Representative Joe Harding, who introduced the bill, claimed that the legislation “is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent.”

If the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passes, parents will be able to sue their school district if LGBTQ discussions happen in the classroom

On top of banning any classroom discussion, the bill also allows parents to literally sue the school district if a teacher or other school staff member discussed “sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

“This will kill kids,” said Chasten Buttigieg, LGBTQ rights advocate and the husband of transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg. “You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in. In a national survey (@TrevorProject), 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide last year. Now they can’t talk to their teachers?”

The Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicide among LGBTQ youth, has previously reported that these potentially banned discussions are what can help LGBTQ students the most. According to the August report, LGBTQ students who had learned about LGBTQ issues or history in their classes had “23% lower odds” of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year.

“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,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”