The Dangers of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill and How the Future of LGBTQ Life in America Will be Impacted

Jake McPhail ’24

Staff Writer

On Monday, March 28, 2022, after weeks of protest and anticipation, Governor Ron Desantis of Florida signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, which is more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, into law. 

This bill is only a small part of a recent cascade of anti-LGBT legislation from Republican lawmakers across the country. From the small statehouses scattered throughout the Midwest to the halls of Congress itself, this startling phenomenon is gaining surprising traction given conservatives’ recent acquiescing to the appearance of supporting gay rights. We have always known they never really cared, but now they do not even bother to pretend that they do.  

The overarching argument follows along the lines of the classic 1980s moral panic Republicanism: there is a group of Satanists, pedophiles, or a combination of both trying to kill “your kids” or indoctrinate them into some evil group. The recent adaptation is closer to the latter with rhetoric like “grooming” being the most popular as of now.  

The most common rebuttal that we hear from conservatives when even uttering the words “Don’t Say Gay” bill is often, “The word gay isn’t even in the bill! Read it!” I continue to find this deeply ironic given that if they themselves had read the bill, they would recognize that it clearly targets conversations surrounding LGBT people.  

Nevertheless, I read the bill, and one line in particular sums up the grievance many of us on the left and in the LGBTQ community have: “Classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students…” 

Although it does not specifically say the word “gay,” the bill is very clear on what it is trying to do: censor discussion on LGBTQ and “gay” topics. Furthermore, the bill does not stop at the third grade, it bans all instruction that is “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” 

Although its intentions are very clear, the language itself is very vague, as what is “age-appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate” is never defined in the law. Deeper in the bill, it introduces the ability for parents to sue for any violations of the law. As you might guess, since the language is so vague, the fear is that any parents could sue the school system for anything that they themselves deem “inappropriate,” placing a substantial financial burden on schools.  

This fear leads to a phenomenon called “chilled speech” where, although the law does not specifically state that you cannot mention these ideas beyond grade three, the fear of legal retribution is enough to prevent it from happening throughout primary education. This phenomenon has created fear, especially amongst Florida’s LGBT teachers who are now afraid to even mention that they have a spouse of the same sex.  

This new moral panic may be a successful rally cry for conservatives, but it happens at the expense of some of America’s most vulnerable and marginalized. Ron Desantis is quoted in favor of the bill, saying he is against “injecting sexual instruction into the classroom.” Conflating the instruction of the identities of queer people and “sexual instruction” is a clear and malicious step in equating gay people with pedophiles. 

This rhetoric is, unsurprisingly, driving up hate for LGBT people. Just recently, a gay nightclub in New York was recently set ablaze in a homophobic attack. As we see laws like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed around the country, we should anticipate a new wave of homophobia that we have not seen in decades. 

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2Comments

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  1. 1
    Nope

    Nope: Omg shut up you manipulated fool. Why on earth do you think teachers should be speaking to young kids at 3 years old about lgbt stuff when they don’t even know how they were conceived 😂

  2. 2

    … :children who are three years old are not in school yet, so it wouldn’t be mentioned to them. The article mentions third grade if that’s what you are referring to. LGBTQ topics are part of the world, so why shouldn’t it be mentioned to kids. Kids learn about different races and parts of the world, so why not different lifestyles?

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