While the state of Florida is known to be the home of a diverse demographic, there has been a recent bill passed targeting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer + community. The Parental Rights in Education Bill has been termed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill considering its essential motive is to ban any conversation regarding sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.
Along with the ban, schools will also be prohibited from engaging in curriculum pertaining to the LGBTQIA+ community and, if they fail to do so, such violation grants parents authority to take legal action. Of the work being done to further marginalize minority groups, this is one of the worst, as it promotes the idea that one’s identity can be deemed inappropriate.
Both homophobic and transphobic, the bill was introduced on Jan. 22 by Republican state representative Joe Harding and has advanced towards the House of Judiciary with a majority vote provided by the Republican led House of Committee. Harding’s reasoning behind this bill can be argued to be related to his religious affiliation: Christianity. Similar to how some parents believe their kids being surrounded by students on the spectrum will infect them, the bill is an attempt to offer protection for another delusional fear.
Responding to Harding, Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director, John Harris Mauer, adamantly opposed the bill by mentioning the dangerous message the policy would send to the youth. Afterall, how is it that, in 2022, we are going backwards in the fight for inclusivity?
Students also no longer have the availability to learn about critical race theory without parental and legal intervention. These bills are prime examples of the recent trend of excessive micromanagement in school curriculum that bans necessary conversations. Without teachings of LGBTQIA+ individuals, students will be stripped from the connection between stories similar to theirs.
Building upon the bill’s faults, “Don’t Say Gay” is poorly written with extremely vague statements. According to the writing, it prohibits primary grade levels to engage in sexual orientation or gender identity discussions. However, the wording is unclear to the certain age group the policy will pertain to.
Another ambiguous statement, the bill explains if a student appears to experience “attributes associated with LGBTQIA+”, schools will be forced to involve the student’s parents. This specific ruling can potentially place the child in a harmful situation such as the possibility of them being outed. Schools, once considered a safe haven for many, will turn now into an uncomfortable environment.
“I think the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill is limiting and unfair. LGBTQIA+ history is fundamental and should be taught and accepted. The decision that teachers can “out” students is outrageous and unfair. It limits self expression,” senior Katherine Sanchez said.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill is not the only case of rights being limited. It seems Florida is being used as a scapegoat for homophobia and transphobia due to the alarming rate of laws stigmatizing LGBTQIA+ groups.
In the 2021, several bills preventing basic rights to the members of the community have been passed. Specifically, healthcare providers are permitted to deny care to patients who identify within the LGBTQIA+ group. Among these bias rulings, an identical bill restricting the teaching of sexual education in schools was approved. The new Florida policies will force students into isolation and hinder self-expression further affecting self-esteem.
Florida is successfully targeting LGBTQIA+ students by using parental concerns as a front for the abolishment of human fundamental rights. The laws against the community prove to be rooted in homophobia and transphobia and must be stopped through the continued fight from allies.
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