Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels
LGBTQ groups have vowed to fight the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which has now been signed into law by the state’s governor.
Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill on Monday (28 March) saying that “parents have a fundamental role in the education, healthcare and well being of their children.”
The bill – officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill – effectively bans discussions of LGBTQ topics in public schools for pupils aged 5-9 as well as teaching that is considered “not age-appropriate” for other students.
“This law will not stand”
Taking effect from 1 July, the law also allows parents to sue schools if they think the law has been broken. It’s been critiqued for being vague in its text about what exactly “discussion” means.
Proponents have argued the bill is about parents’ rights.
Responding to the signing of the bill, Nadine Smith, the Executive Director of the LGBTQ advocacy group, Equality Florida, said: “Governor Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the most cowardly way possible today.
“He hid his agenda from the media and the public until the last moment, skulking onto a charter school campus that is exempt from the law and away from students who would protest his presence.”
Today @GovRonDeSantis signed the #DontSayGay bill in the most cowardly way possible. He hid his agenda from the media & the public until the last moment, skulking onto a charter school campus that is exempt from the law & away from students who would protest his presence. pic.twitter.com/He3fPh9Anf
— Equality Florida (@equalityfl) March 28, 2022
Smith also said DeSantis had “attacked parents and children in our state by invoking hateful anti-LGBTQ stereotypes all to pander to his right-wing base,” and had made schools less safe for children.
She added: “Equality Florida will defend the rights of all students to have a healthy environment to learn and thrive and for all parents to know their families are included and respected. This law will not stand.
“We will work to see it removed either by the courts as unconstitutional or repealed by the legislature.”
Sarah Kate Ellie, the President and CEO of the LGBTQ media group, GLAAD described the law as “a blatant attack on LGBTQ Floridians,” and accused the Governor of smearing LGBTQ people in “the ugliest terms”.
For months the governor’s office used this legislation to smear and defame LGBTQ people in the ugliest terms and misrepresent what the bill actually says and does, which is censor classroom conversation and harass teachers.
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) March 28, 2022
She also said that DeSantis signing the bill into law at a charter school, which wouldn’t be affected by the bill “the height of hypocrisy and his cowardice.”
Joining Equality Florida Ellis said: We will stand side-by-side with Floridians to hold lawmakers who supported this bill accountable at the ballot box.”
The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is one of 204 bills proposed in states across the US, most of which target trans youth, according to the Freedom for All Americans group. It’s had widespread condemnation, with President Biden calling it “hateful”.
Best Actress winner at the 2022 Oscars, Jessica Chastain, called it “discriminatory and bigoted” in her acceptance speech.
Polls taken last year also indicate that 76 percent of American support legislation protecting the LGBTQ community, which is higher than many previous records.