The Florida Senate has passed a bill that would ban “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in the state’s primary schools. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was passed by the state House last month and now heads to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has previously lauded the bill.
At a moment when the free world is fighting against Russian tyranny in Ukraine, the state of Florida is going backward and restricting liberty. Having badly lost the argument over LGBTQ equality years ago, the right-wing Florida legislature, in thrall to the Religious Right, has moved to filibuster the debate. In doing so, they have stolen a page out of Putin’s playbook, essentially copying Russia’s oppressive Gay Propaganda Law, which ended freedom of speech and association for LGBTQ people in Mother Russia in 2013.
Like Putin, DeSantis is justifying Florida’s tyranny by pretending to support family values and parents’ rights. However, he is running roughshod over the rights of parents who love their LGBTQ children. He is causing grievous harm to LGBTQ students, who need support, not state-sanctioned sabotage.
“This is going to endanger the safety of our LGBTQ students and adolescents,” state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D) said during Tuesday’s debate. “We will not stop until this state moves forward and actually values everyone in it, everyone no matter their sexual orientation.”
In response to this legislative monstrosity, Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, tweeted a Trever Project statistic that “42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide last year.”
Then he rhetorically asked, “Now they can’t talk to their teachers?”
The Secretary also warned on CNN of unforeseen consequences. “Chasten, my husband, pointed out that if our kids someday, some Monday morning come into class, you know, and kids are sitting around and the teacher’s got the morning circle talking about how everybody’s weekends went, and one of them says, ‘I had the best weekend with my dad’s,’ is the teacher supposed to say, ‘No, we don’t talk about that here?”
I call on all Floridians who love freedom, democracy and true family values to not only ignore this ignorant, Dark Ages soon-to-be law, but to actively work to undermine it. Say gay frequently, act gay often, promote LGBTQ entertainment on television and online and sue the backwoods bigots behind this outrage. We refuse to be silenced by a cabal of discriminatory demagogues who actively work to extinguish democracy and deny citizens constitutionally protected rights.
Corporations ought to unequivocally speak out and stop donating to backward politicians who voted for the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. If they can stand up to Putin abroad, they ought to show the same level of courage at home. If these businesses allow bigotry to flower and flourish, they are culpable for the human calamities that will result from their silence. Disney should end its waffling and take the lead. Florida’s most well-known company must decide if it stands for “It’s a Small World” or do they now represent “It’s a Small-Minded World”.
The despicable goal of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is to slime the LGBTQ community, by making our sexual orientation or gender identity something ugly and unmentionable. To pretend our lives are inherently controversial when they are not. To have the issue, once again, whispered in the shadows or discussed in dark closets.
It’s important to remember that this bill is sponsored by un-American Republican fascists who want to lie about the LGBTQ community (and Jan 6) but are too cowardly to engage in a dialogue or debate. So, they passed a “gag” bill to ensure their propagandistic disinformation goes unchallenged and unopposed. Sorry, but we aren’t playing along with their games.
Proponents of the soon-to-be-law showed their sinister hand when they introduced the pedophile canard. Gov. DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, tweeted. “The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill. If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year-old children.”
This pathological line of thinking is merely Republican projection of their own penchant to engage in underage sex trafficking. Ironically, the two most famous “groomers” in Florida’s recent history are Donald Trump’s former Palm Beach pal Jeffrey Epstein and Republican rock star Rep. Matt Gaetz.
The most likely people to engage in pedophilia are “straight” men in “traditional” families, who use their access to children for the purposes of exploitation. There is also the problem of Roman Catholic priests, who have serially abused their power to “groom” child sex partners. There is no similar pattern in the LGBTQ community. In fact, the heavily urban communities where large segments of the LGBTQ community live often have the lowest percentage of youth.
We must stand up to the deplorable lies and blatant discrimination. Not only are we going to continue swiftly moving forward, but we should also use this opportunity to double down and be extra visible. We will fight and defeat these unpatriotic goons who bastardize the law, sabotage the United States Constitution and try to force all Floridians to bow down to their theocratic views. If anything, we should have a “don’t say evangelical” law, considering new empirical evidence that “for every 10 percent additional evangelical in a county, the number of hate groups in that county increases by 17 percent.”
The messages that we send LGBTQ youth matter. Dr. Caitlin Ryan published a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics that said: “LGBT teens who were highly rejected by their families were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times as vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs.”
Another study by Dr. Ryan, who also directs the Family Acceptance Project, reports: “Parent-initiated attempts to change participant’s sexual orientation during adolescence were associated with more negative mental health problems for young adults.”
This sickening bill will not protect youth, nor will it promote family values. It will undermine the most vulnerable youth and destroy families. This is a time to be strong and beat back the bullies who want to promote their careers by pandering to their base on the backs of our children. We can’t and won’t let them win.
I’ll end by thanking Equality Florida and its Executive Director Nadine Smith for fighting valiantly against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Unfortunately, the state GOP is in a race to the bottom, which threatens to undermine Florida’s future. The state should be attracting the best and the brightest. Unfortunately, right wing politics will turn away tomorrow’s leaders and entrepreneurs, who will be repelled by the closed minds and hardened hearts represented by Gov. DeSantis and his Republican cult.