Florida Republicans are trying to ban teachers from talking about LGBTQ people

Professor-teacher in classroom at the blackboard writes formulas for students.
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An anti-LGBTQ education bill has passed a Florida House committee and will now advance to the House floor for a vote.

HB 1557 – known formally as the Parental Rights in Education Bill and informally as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill – was approved by the House Education & Employment Committee and would make it illegal for kindergarten through fifth grade teachers to discuss anything related to LGBTQ identities in the classroom.

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This means students not only couldn’t learn about LGBTQ history and diverse families, but they’d be prohibited from speaking about their own parents and families that may include LGBTQ people.

Proposed by Republican state Rep. Joe Harding, the bill would also give parents the right to sue their children’s schools if a teacher talks about LGBTQ people or even “encourages classroom discussion” of LGBTQ people or issues.

“This bill is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent,” Harding said.

Equality Florida press secretary Brandon J. Wolf described the bill as “another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces.”

“Make no mistake,” Wolf continued, “LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s public policy director, also spoke out against the bill, calling it “deeply prejudicial” and saying it “sends a terrible message” to young LGBTQ people and young people with LGBTQ parents.

“How dare you support a bill like this and call yourself an ally to the LGBTQ community. You can’t, you simply can’t,” Maurer told lawmakers.

Chasten Buttigieg retweeted Maurer’s testimony and said the bill “will kill kids,” adding that Florida is “purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in.”

“42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide last year,” Buttigieg said. “Now they can’t talk to their teachers?”

If the bill passes, it could have dire effects on LGBTQ students in the state. According to data from The Trevor Project, LGBTQ youth who learn about LGBTQ issues at school are 23% less likely to attempt suicide.

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

After the committee voted to advance the bill, Rep. Carlos G Smith (D), Florida’s first LGBTQ Latino lawmaker, posted a tearful video about the dire effects its passage will have and emphasized the need to support LGBTQ youth.

Referencing the anti-LGBTQ Pulse nightclub massacre that took place in the state, Smith said it is more important than ever to continue speaking openly about these issues.

“We should and we are encouraging these types of conversations in our schools. The impact that it has had on the surrounding community, on the surviving family members. This is not a taboo discussion. We will not be erased. LGBTQ families will not be invisible. LGBTQ students will not be invisible. They will be seen, they will be supported, they will be loved.”

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