The Hypocrisy of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill


Ted Etyan

People protest Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill outside of the White House. President Biden has called the bill “hateful.”

Audrey Smith, Writer

It would seem that our country should be focused on big issues going on in the world like the pandemic or the war in Ukraine. However, state legislatures across the country have been focusing on “gender identity in education.”

On Monday, March 28, Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the “Parental Rights in Education” bill or more infamously known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The bill, according to the legislation itself, calls for, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

The problem with this bill is that it one restricts free speech, two is homophobic, and three is unnecessary.

The Republican Party loves to promote itself as the “party of free speech.” The party recently used free speech as an excuse for the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol. However, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is literally restricting free speech in schools.

The Washington Post Editorial Board elaborates, “[the bill is] an intrusive attempt to restrict speech in schools. And just like efforts against the specter of critical race theory, they seek to expunge important truths about our history and world from classrooms.”

The bill forces LGBTQ teachers to hide who they are, and makes teaching about gender identity difficult. If a child asked their teacher anything relating to the LGBTQ community, and the teacher were to respond to it, parents have the choice to sue the school district over a violation.

Some Florida teachers have been fighting back against the bill in a viral letter that points out the weird language of the bill. For example, the bill does not specify what exactly is “discussion of sexuality” in schools. The teachers wrote, “I will be removing all books or instruction which refer to ‘mother,’ ‘father,’ ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ as these are gendered identities which may allude to sexual orientation.”

Even though, people have been fighting back against the bill, it will nonetheless probably have a negative impact on LGBTQ students. According to the Trevor Project, “42 percent of LGBTQ youths seriously considered suicide in the past year.”

Effectively banning any mention of gender identity will further isolate these students from their peers, in addition to taking away school safe spaces. Will Larkins, a gay Florida student who was interviewed in the New York Times, expressed, “For many of my friends in dangerous situations because of their sexuality or gender identity, school has been a space where they could be themselves.”

The bill was supposedly designed to protect children, however, it further promotes the idea that LGBTQ students are different and their identity and history need to be hidden. It also stereotypes the LGBTQ community as inappropriate, which can in turn increase homophobia in academic settings.

Kathryn Poe of Equality Ohio, told NPR, “When we segment children off and tell them that they don’t exist and that they don’t matter and effectively erase them from the classroom…we effectively erase them.”

This brings up the question: Why was this bill even created? Is teaching about gender identity and sexuality really a problem in classrooms? It seems this bill will only create more problems including increased mental health complications and homophobia, as well as the advancement of the erasure of marginalized groups in society.

As copycat bills across the country are appearing in many state legislatures, it’s up to US citizens to protect marginalized populations that are being targeted in the nation’s next culture war.