Governor Ron DeSantis' "Don't Say Gay" law
16th May 2023
On Wednesday, the state of Florida has passed an expansion of the "Don't Say Gay" Act. The law, passed in 2014, originally prohibited the discussion of homosexuality in the state's public schools. Its expansion, however, now includes bans on any kind of discussion regarding gender identity or sexual orientation in the state's public school classrooms.
The new legislation, Senate Bill 1108, was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 22, 2021, and the bill that recently passed Senate, amends section 1002.33 of the Florida Statutes, which outlines the state's educational curriculum requirements.
The law states that "a classroom teacher may not provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality" and that "a school district may not allow any material regarding homosexuality to be used in the classroom." The bill also requires schools to "provide instructional materials that accurately portray Florida's history, including the contributions of women and members of racial or ethnic minority groups, Hispanics, and African Americans," steering clear from including the LGBTQ+ community as a protected group.
It is, by any means, arguable that it may be discriminatory and may as well send a pretty harmful message to LGBTQ+ students, suggesting that their identity not only is invalid or unaccepted by their own State, but, in fact, controversial and inappropriate. Something to protect small children from.
Safe to say that this is not the first time that Florida has attempted to limit discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools. Governor Ron DeSantis has had a contentious relationship with the LGBTQ+ community throughout his time in office. Since 2017, he has taken a number of actions that have been criticized as discriminatory and harmful to the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.
In 2017, DeSantis introduced the "Freedom to Disagree Act" in Congress, which aimed to protect individuals and organizations from being penalized for refusing to use certain gender pronouns. However, the bill did not pass.
In 2019, DeSantis signed a bill that allows private adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples based on religious or moral objections. Also in 2019, DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have banned conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice that aims to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Again, still in that same year, DeSantis appointed a judge to Florida's Supreme Court who has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ positions and rulings, raising concerns about the court's future decisions on LGBTQ+ issues.
In 2020, DeSantis signed a bill that prohibits transgender people from obtaining accurate birth certificates that reflect their gender identity, further restricting their ability to have their identity recognized and respected.
In 2021, DeSantis signed a bill banning transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams in public schools and colleges in Florida. The move has been widely criticized by LGBTQ+ advocates who believe that such policies are discriminatory and harmful to transgender athletes. He then signed a bill that requires students to obtain parental consent before receiving any instruction on the topic of sex education, including any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. This has been seen as a move to restrict access to accurate and comprehensive sex education, particularly for LGBTQ+ students.
In response to the passage of the expanded "Don't Say Gay" law in Florida, there has been significant opposition and protest from various groups and individuals within the state. Many Floridians, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, advocates for inclusivity, and supporters of equal rights, have expressed their concerns and objections to the legislation.
Numerous protests and rallies have taken place across Florida, with activists and community members coming together to voice their opposition to the law. These demonstrations aim to raise awareness about the potential harm caused by the legislation and to advocate for a more inclusive and accepting educational environment for all students.
Organizations such as LGBTQ+ rights groups, civil rights organizations, and educational associations have also spoken out against the law. They argue that it creates a hostile and discriminatory environment for LGBTQ+ students, sending a message that their identities are not valid or worthy of discussion. Critics argue that such restrictions on discussing sexual orientation and gender identity can contribute to an atmosphere of stigma, exclusion, and bullying, which can have serious negative consequences for the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ+ students.
Furthermore, opponents of the law argue that it limits the ability of teachers to provide accurate and comprehensive education to their students. They assert that an inclusive curriculum that addresses diverse perspectives and experiences is essential for fostering empathy, understanding, and respect among students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Many individuals and organizations have also taken to social media platforms to share their opposition to the law, using hashtags, online campaigns, and petitions to raise awareness and mobilize support for inclusive education.
In addition to local opposition, the law has attracted criticism and scrutiny from national and international human rights organizations. They argue that such legislation undermines the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and perpetuates harmful stereotypes and discrimination.
While the law has its supporters, the passionate and vocal opposition from Floridians and advocacy groups highlights the importance of inclusivity, acceptance, and equal rights in education. The ongoing protests and resistance against this legislation demonstrate the determination of many to protect the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ students in Florida's public schools.
In conclusion, while proponents of the law argue that it is a necessary measure to protect children from controversial or inappropriate topics, it is debatable that it does little to protect all of those children whose identity is and has always been stigmatized. As of now, while the Republican Party looks forward to a "bright future", let's hope, to quote the iconic meme, we aren't indeed evolving but backwards.
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