LGBTQ+ advocates called for the resignation of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s press secretary after she called legislation under consideration that would limit and sometimes ban discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in school an “anti-grooming bill.”
“The bill that liberals inaccurately call 'Don’t Say Gay' would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill,” Press Secretary Christina Pushaw tweeted on Sunday. “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.”
This is a wild mischaracterization of the bill, which would prohibit educators in Florida from discussing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade and require discussion of those topics with students at any level to be “age-appropriate.”
Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, the only out gay man serving right now in the Florida House, responded with anger at insinuation from the governor’s office that acknowledgement of gay and transgender people should be considered grooming. He called for Pushaw’s resignation over the tweet.
“DeSantis’ spokesperson openly accused opponents of #DontSayGay of being ‘groomers’— aka PEDOPHILES,” Smith tweeted. “Bigoted attacks like this against LGBTQ people are the worst of the worst. They’re disgusting and dangerous and have NO PLACE in the Guv’s office. ChristinaPushaw must resign.”
Smith also shared a dictionary definition of grooming, which is a predatory process of gaining the trust of a potential victim, usually a child, before sexually abusing them.
Pushaw went on to state more inaccuracies about the bill.
She criticized a video of Saturday Night Live cast member Kate McKinnon ridiculing the bill.
“Why does SNL want to teach 3-8 year old children about sex, without telling their parents?” she posted.
On Saturday, McKinnon addressed the pending legislation in a Weekend Update segment.
"I'm trying to make sense of all of this," the out performer said after calling the bills unconscionable and saying that it could make LGBTQ+ youth depressed and suicidal. "If the '90s were right and gay means bad, then this is the gayest bill I've ever seen."
Formally called the Parental Rights in Education bill, the legislation doesn’t have anything to do with teaching about sex. In fact, Republican supporters in the Florida House and Senate voted down amendments that would have altered the bill to address sexuality instead of sexual orientation or gender identity. One of those changes was offered by Smith on the House floor.
It’s also incorrect to say the bill only impacts classrooms with children ages 4 to 8. While it outlaws all discussions in kindergarten through grade 3, it also restricts discussion more vaguely for all students until they graduate high school.
Rep. Michele Rayner, the only lesbian in the Florida legislature, slammed Pushaw’s remarks as homophobic.
“Chrissy, this trope is tired and lacks originality,” Rayner tweeted. “It’s clear you don’t like LGBTQ people — just say that. But no matter how you feel — we are here. We’ve been here. And we aren’t going anywhere.”
Florida Sen. Shevrin Jones, Florida first out state senator, said the press secretary’s remarks managed to stoop lower into poor discourse than she has in the past.
“Human decency & respect for those who may see things differently than you should be a basic human quality,” he tweeted. “But, calling Dem AND Rep who support basic human rights for LGBTQ youth ‘groomers’ aka pedophiles, is a new low Christina Pushaw, and as a spox, you SHOULD know better.”
Equality Florida also released a statement about the outwardly homophobic messaging coming out of the governor’s office.
“Governor DeSantis' spokesperson said the quiet part out loud: that this bill is grounded in a belief that LGBTQ people, simply by existing, are a threat to children and must be erased,” the statement reads. “He [DeSantis] chose Pushaw to speak his mind to the public. He owns this unbridled hatred. This same bigoted insinuation has long been been used to stigmatize our families, justify denying us the ability to adopt children, and is being used to justify the tracking of transgender children by government agents in Texas and threats to imprison their parents. Make no mistake — this is a tacit announcement from the Governor that he supports the true intent of the Don’t Say Gay bill: the erasure of LGBTQ people.”
DeSantis, a Republican with presidential ambitions, in one short term has developed a substantial record of anti-LGBTQ+ policies in Florida.
It’s unlikely DeSantis will fire Pushaw, who has survived controversies like insinuating neo-Nazi protests were likely organized by Democratic staffers. “Do we even know they’re Nazis,” she notoriously tweeted in January. She later removed the post. DeSantis days later blamed the whole scuffle on President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, the "don’t say gay" bill at question is up for debate in the Florida Senate on Monday and will likely pass on Tuesday.
Jones has argued against both the law and the premise behind it and other legislation aimed at removing LGBTQ-accepting books and instructional materials from Florida schools.
“There was no book that I read that brought me to who I am,” he said. “And even your children. I don’t care what you may try to do to think that you are protecting them. The one thing you are obligated to do, like my mother and my father did, is to love them for who they are.”