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What Is This “Don’t Say Gay Bill” I’ve Been Hearing About?

The bill goes by many names. Officially it’s called CS/HB 1557 or Parental Rights in Education, but it has been deemed by the media and the public as the “no promo homo law” or most commonly the “don’t say gay bill.” 

The bill is fairly vague but there are a few things that are clear. As currently written, the bill would be “prohibiting a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner.” Additionally, if this bill becomes law every K-6 educator, school counselor and principal in the state of Florida will be required to attend training about those new guidelines as well as review and update their coursework, practices and procedures in order not to discuss or encourage discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity. If passed, the law would become effective as of July 1, 2022.

Furthermore, if this bill becomes law, it won’t be easy to ignore. Under the new proposed guidelines, should any school officials be seen as encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity after July 1, 2022, parents would be encouraged by the legislature to take legal measures against that school or school official “providing for the additional award of injunctive relief, damages, and reasonable attorney fees and court costs to certain parents.”

See the full bill here.  

So, who supports this bill and why? Support comes from Republican legislators, especially Joe Harding, as well as lobbying groups. Those groups include The Florida Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission whose slogan is “Your Advocates for the Christian Worldview” and Florida Family Action, which states it “is committed to protecting and defending life, marriage, family and religious liberty.”

The bill itself states that it aims to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner” and supporters of the bill echo the same sentiment. Joe Harding said on his Twitter page that the bill would be “empowering parents,” and that “it is the parents’ job to be the parent not the school district!” 

Additionally, the bill includes guidelines pertaining to sharing information with parents and would require more transparency in that regard. 

Opposition to the bill comes from LGBTQ+ rights activists and organizations. As well as the majority of progressive popular media coverage. The Miami Herald published an opinion piece on the bill. Among the more subdued descriptors, the bill is “restrictive, discriminatory and outrageous.”

The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ advocacy and suicide prevention group, published an article that has gained some attention in this debate. In this article, LGBTQ Youth Suicide Prevention in Schools stated that school-aged LGBTQ youth are facing “significant disparities in suicide risk compared to their straight and cisgender peers, based largely on the ways they are treated in their broader environment” and include extensive research throughout the article that supports that fact. 

It’s unknown how the bill will affect students and faculty who aren’t a part of the LGBTQ+ community as the bill broadly addresses “sexual orientation and gender identity” which is something that applies to all students, teachers and parents. Would the bill prevent children from talking about their parents? Or teachers from mentioning their husbands? Could a teacher be frivolously sued for addressing the class as “boys and girls”? Due to the vague nature of the bill, these questions go unanswered. 

The Trevor project emphasizes that “schools can support LGBTQ youth is by including positive content about LGBTQ people and issues in classroom curriculums.” This generally benefits individual students by making school a safer, more welcoming space and also benefits the wider community by helping tomorrow’s citizens understand each other better. If this bill becomes law, resources for LGBTQ+ students may be depleted.

Furthermore, LGBTQ+ people will not cease to exist if schools don’t allow them a voice, they will simply cease to be heard. The bill has been addressed by the senate as recently as Jan. 25 of 2022 and is rapidly moving forward.

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Sabrina Trinidad is a third-year undergraduate student at Florida State University currently majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in Social Entrepreneurship.
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