The Education and Employment Committee of Florida's Republican-majority House of Representatives Friday advanced legislation known as the "don't say gay" bill, which now goes to the entire House for a vote.
House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, and its sibling bill, Senate Bill 1834, would prohibit classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity. That would mean no mention of queer history or identities would be allowed. Not only would it erase these topics, advocates fear, but it would erase the students themselves.
The bill would bar teachers in the state from talking about LGBTQ+ topics that were not "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students."
In the bill, there are also sections that would undermine LGBTQ+ support at schools. Other aspects of the legislation would effectively out queer students to their parents without the students' consent.
Republican state Rep. Joe Harding, who introduced the bill, said the legislation is about "defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent."
The legislation would allow parents to take legal action against their student's school district and be awarded damages if the district's policies could infringe on the parents' "fundamental right to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children," according to The Hill.
Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, called out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for creating a worse environment for queer youth.
"This will kill kids," he said. "You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in."
Buttigieg cited a recent survey by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, which found 42 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
"The Trevor Project's research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face," Sam Ames, the group's director of advocacy and government affairs, said in a statement. "LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers."
Florida LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Florida quickly condemned the bill.
"Governor DeSantis' march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don't Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor's offices, and workplaces," Brandon Wolf, Equality Florida's press secretary, said in an email to the Los Angeles Blade.
"Make no mistake -- LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased," Wolf added.