The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is moving to expand the state’s Don’t Say Gay law to apply to all grades.
The law currently bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade. A new proposed rule would expand it through 12th grade.
The proposed rule change states that for grades four through 12, there are exceptions for instruction that “is either expressly required by state academic standards” or “is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”
Moreover, DeSantis does not even need the legislature to vote on this expansion. Instead, it’s up to a vote from the Board of Education, whose members have been appointed by none other than DeSantis. The vote is scheduled for next month.
The Don’t Say Gay law has caused national outrage since it was first proposed by state Rep. Joseph Harding (R) – who recently pled guilty to multiple charges related to COVID-19 relief fraud and faces up to 35 years in prison.
Since its passage, schools have been forced to roll back policies protecting LGBTQ+ students. Students have reported an overall “hostile environment” toward LGBTQ+ in their schools, with some being forcibly outed to their parents by administrators.
The law has also inspired numerous copycat bills around the country.
DeSantis’s ruthless campaign against LGBTQ+ youth in his state has led more than half of LGBTQ+ parents to consider leaving the state, according to a survey from the Williams Institute.
The survey found that LGBTQ+ families feel less safe after the law’s passage and DeSantis’ numerous attacks. Almost a quarter of respondents said they feared being harassed by their neighbors now and more than 20 percent said they had gone out in their community less often.
DeSantis, widely expected to run for president in 2024, has used the demonization of people of color and queer folks as a cornerstone of his political career. He has gone to war with Disney, launched numerous blindsides attacking “woke indoctrination” in schools, and taken control of the state’s education system with handpicked administrators and the power of the bully pulpit. His staff has regularly smeared LGBTQ+ people and allies on social media with vile slurs and insinuations of sexual abuse.
“In the state of Florida, we are not going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten. First graders shouldn’t have woke gender ideology in their curriculums. And that’s what we’re standing for,” DeSantis said in one conspiratorial rant.
“And I can tell you this: The chance that I am going to back down from my commitment to students and back down from my commitment to parents’ rights simply because of fraudulent media narratives or pressure from woke corporations, the chances of that are zero.”
He opposed the Respect for Marriage Act, a national law requiring federal and state governments to legally recognize same-sex marriages, and in 2021 signed a law that allows parents to sue if any public school or college allows transgender females to play on sports teams matching their gender identity.
In 2021, DeSantis vetoed his state’s budgetary funding for LGBTQ+ programs, including mental health support for survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, housing for homeless queer youth, and funding for Orlando’s LGBTQ+ Community Center.
The LGBTQ+ organization Family Equality has appealed its lawsuit challenging the Don’t Say Gay law after a lower court dismissed their suit.
“This law is blatantly unconstitutional, and already has harmed plaintiffs and countless other LGBTQ+ students, students with LGBTQ+ parents, and teachers,” Family Equality CEO Stacey Stevenson told LGBTQ Nation last week.
Stevenson added that they refuse to give up hope for a victory.
“We simply must have hope. Hope is an act of resistance and our families need all the hope that they can get.”