By Tomas Palmieri
On March 8, the Florida Senate passed the new “Parental Rights in Education Bill,” commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill completely bans in classroom discussion and instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in grade levels K-3, but also prohibits this education “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” “Don’t Say Gay” legally binds educators to inform parents if their child receives mental, emotional, or physical health services on campus.
This vaguely worded hateful bill has immediately received an onslaught of deserved condemnation from the LGBTQ+ community, as well as allies.
The vagueness of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill’s statements is notably intentional to allow for the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation to be interpreted in many different ways. This tactic was employed by the Florida Senate in order to allow for the bill to pass, despite its obvious discrimination.
The glaring problem with “Don’t Say Gay” is its blatant discrimination and dehumanization of the LGBTQ+ community. Putting the conversation and education of one’s identity into a political debate is already thoroughly dehumanizing, but actually passing a bill that bans these topics in schools is simply the creation of a humanitarian crisis in Florida.
“This kind of legislation can have an extraordinarily detrimental effect on the mental health of young people who are already particularly vulnerable,” clinical social worker and psychotherapist Heather Zayde said to Healthline.
“Don’t Say Gay” completely eliminates what would be a safe space for children and adolescents of the LGBTQ+ community who may not necessarily have the deserved support from family. This can result in an overall decline in mental health, equating to an increase in suicide rates among the LGBTQ+ population (which already has a significantly higher rate than the heterosexual population). The bill directly endangers the safety and mental health of students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as it prevents them from accessing potentially necessary resources.
While the danger this bill presents to mental health is obvious, supporters still don’t seem to understand the problems with it. Conservative news channel Fox News has repeatedly stated that by educating youth on gender identity and sexual orientation, “liberals are grooming students.” This archaic viewpoint brings back the age-old idea that homosexuality and any other sexuality are only ideas explored in sexual acts when really they are a complicated part of someone’s identity. It also reinforces the erroneous belief that being homosexual is something you choose or are taught, rather then something you simply are born with and feel.
“Don’t Say Gay” supporters also believe that this bill is allowing parents to have more influence and control over their child’s education. If this is what the bill really stands for, is it really necessary to unfairly target the LGBTQ+ community through legislation to let parents have more influence on their child’s education? Is there really no other way to allow parents to have more influence on their children’s education without directly discriminating against a population of students?
While the bill is being directly opposed by the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, even the White House believes that the bill is unconstitutional and wrong.
“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve,” President Joe Biden recently tweeted.
While the opposition is strong, it has not fully stopped the ripple effect that Florida’s bill is creating across the United States. Many other states such as Texas, Alabama, and Oklahoma just to name a few are attempting to follow in the footsteps of hateful anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. For example, there is heavy debate in Texas leading to considering medical treatment for minors who are transgender as child abuse.
Instead of passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that take scare LGBTQ+ youth from coming out and take away their rights, we should instead focus on aiding this already oppressed population. We must pass pro-LGBTQ+ legislation instead that offers more resources and acceptance for those who need it. With this, we can ultimately make the world a better, more equitable place.