Coming as a surprise to nobody, a new bill has passed the Florida House of Representatives that will encroach on the individual rights of thousands of citizens. , informally referred to as “Don’t Say Gay,” was passed by the education and employment committee.
This is not the first time that Florida legislators have attempted to pass bills to further suppress marginalized communities. For example, HB1/SB484 passed in April 2021 and was met with heavy backlash from activist circles across the state. This law targets communities, particularly BIPOC organizers, that attempt to defund their police departments as a response to the Black Lives Matter protests. It is a strategic bill that seeks to remove the right to protest for these communities. Additionally, a 2019 law repealed the restoration of voting rights to previously incarcerated people. This law mostly affects lower-income Black citizens who should’ve had their voting rights restored through Amendment 4 in 2018.
The Parental Rights in Education Bill is the newest addition to this tradition of censorship and suppression within Florida. This bill is structured under the guise of uplifting parental rights within the education of their children. It outlines the need for parents to be notified of information their kids are learning about and decide whether they want to allow their kids to partake in the instruction.
While parental rights are important, the proposed law would prohibit “school district[s] from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner.” Topics that are not deemed “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” would be forbidden and could lead to legal repercussions.
LGBTQ+ sexual orientations and identities are not explicitly forbidden; however, they are the communities that will face the brunt of this law. It follows a social tradition of seeing LGBTQ+ identities as overtly sexual, inappropriate and perverse. While the wording is vague enough to apply to heterosexual or cisgender topics, it is likely not the case that these topics will be removed from conversations. Through this vague wording, conversations about LGBTQ+ identities, history and lives are silenced across the entire state.
Not only would this bill limit necessary conversations within classrooms, but it would also mold the world of the following generations. Instead of forging a world that is understanding and accepting of expansive genders and sexualities, it would continue a tradition of shame and guilt that LGBTQ+ communities often live with.
Not too far removed from the Pulse nightclub shooting, it is clear that the LGBTQ+ community continues to need support and proper protection within our state. The Parental Rights in Education Bill would be a step back, and, frankly, a slap in the face to those that have experienced discrimination, ostracization and harm as a result of bigotry and homophobia. Florida legislators should act in support of, not against, the LGBTQ+ community and stop this bill from advancing any further.