By: Tara Thompson
Recently, Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill that wouldn’t allow discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary schools. Originally named the “Parental Rights in Education bill” now has been deemed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by critics. The Governor, Ron Desantis, is a Republican running for re-election. He has proven his support for the legislation and has signed it into law. Another Republican by the name of Joe Harding, who proposed the bill said it is there for “empowering parents” and improving the “quality” of life for the state’s children.
Harding has said in a statement that “creating boundaries at an early age of what is appropriate in our schools, when we are funding our schools is not hate. It’s actually providing boundaries, and it’s fair to our teachers and our teachers and our school districts to know what we expect.” Harding has repeatedly stated that the bill would not prohibit students from talking about LGBTQ+ history and community. However, critics have confirmed the legislation could open districts to lawsuits from parents who deem any conversation about LGBTQ+ people or issues to be “inappropriate.”
At a speech on the House floor, Carlos Guillermo Smith, a gay Democrat, told lawmakers that he purposefully wore a rainbow Pride ribbon upside down on his lapel “as a symbol that LGBTQ community in Florida is in distress. We are in distress because this bill is yet another attack on our community,” Smith said. “This bill goes way beyond the text on its page. It sends a terrible message to our youth that there is something so wrong, so inappropriate, so dangerous about this topic that we have to censor it from classroom instruction.”
Joe Biden has previously rebuked Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, vowing to “fight for the protections and safety” of LGBTQ youths. Speaking on the House floor, Smith agreed with Biden’s statement. “I want to make sure that for those LGBTQ youth in Florida and around the country and in the world who are watching, I want to make sure that they know this: You are loved. You are supported. And we will wake up every single day to fight for you, because you are worth fighting for.”