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LGBTQ+ Parents Consider Leaving Florida Due to 'Don't Say Gay' Law: Study

LGBTQ+ Parents Consider Leaving Florida Due to 'Don't Say Gay' Law: Study

Gay dads with their children on their shoulders

The Williams Institute found that more than half the parents surveyed were thinking of leaving the state.

LGBTQ+ parents in Florida are deeply concerned about the impact of the state’s Parental Rights in Education act — often referred to as the "don't say gay" law — with many considering a move out of the state, according to a new study.

The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law examined data from 113 LGBTQ+ Florida parents about their reactions to the law passed by lawmakers and signed by the state's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last year. It went into effect on July 1.

The law bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 in public schools and stipulates that such instruction must be “age-appropriate” in higher grades. “Many are concerned that the bill will not only result in restricted or nonexistent education about the existence of diverse sexual and gender identities, but it will result in a chilly or hostile school climate for LGBTQ educators, students, and families because it suggests that something is wrong with LGBTQ identities,” the Williams Institute notes.

“Legislation can have a negative impact on LGBTQ+ parent families by cultivating a climate of fear and insecurity,” study author Abbie E. Goldberg, professor of psychology at Clark University, said in a Williams Institute press release. “For LGBTQ+ parents without the means to move or send their children to private schools, the stress that this legislation creates will be significant.”

Researchers found that 88 percent of parents surveyed said they were very or somewhat worried about the law’s effect. Their concerns about the effect on their children included “restricting them from speaking freely about their families, negatively impacting their sense of legitimacy, and encouraging a hostile school climate that would negatively impact their children,” the report says. Those with LGBTQ+ children were particularly worried.

Several parents said their children had already had negative experiences, such as “harassment and bullying at school because they had LGBTQ+ parents, not being able to talk about their parents or their own LGBTQ+ identities at school or outside of school, and fears about continuing to live in Florida,” according to the study.

Fifty-six percent of the parents surveyed said they were thinking of moving out of Florida, and 16.5 percent had taken steps toward this. “Indeed, participants said that they were saving money, looking for jobs, and exploring the housing markets outside of Florida,” the report says. “Many felt conflicted, however, noting that they loved their families, friends, and communities; others said that moving was currently impossible for them, as they were caring for older family members or other dependents or had jobs that they could not find elsewhere.”

Others were taking different actions to protect their families, such as moving their children to a school not covered by the “don’t say gay” law — for instance, a private school. Some parents with school-age children talked with their kids about the law’s impact.

Parents and families are using a variety of coping strategies. Some have become involved in activism, while others are taking an opposite tack and avoiding the news.

“Our county has become a focus of political intervention in the state and so they witness these debates playing out in the paper, online, and in our comments in the house,” one activist respondent said. “They witness us speaking up, writing letters to the editor, and appearing at school board meetings.”

The survey was available to complete online from June 13 through September 9, and participants were recruited through Equality Florida, LGBTQ+ employee groups, personal and professional contacts, and other sources.

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