“Don’t Say Gay” Bill Approved In Florida House Committee

A Florida state House committee has approved House Bill 1557 (also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill) which would prohibit any references to sexual orientation or gender identity in classroom discussions.

The legislation also includes broad language regarding “notifying a student’s parent if there is a change…related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.” LGBTQ advocates say the vague wording could require teachers or school staff to “out” students to their parents.

The message appears to be that LGBTQ people can be conveniently erased, and children with same-sex parents shouldn’t be able to mention their family at school.

Following the approval by the House Education and Employment Committee along party lines, the bill now advances to the full House. Republicans currently control both chambers of the state legislature.

Chasten Buttigieg, husband to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and an educator himself, took to Twitter to condemn the legislation saying it would make Florida “a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in.”

Jon Harris Maurer, Public Policy Director for Equality Florida, spoke out against the bill saying conversations about LGBTQ people “aren’t something dangerous that should be banned. That’s deeply prejudicial and sends a terrible message to our young people including LBGTQ young people or young people who have LGBTQ parents.”

“If you’re worried about teaching students about sexual activities, then regulate that,” Maurer added. “But don’t use this as a front to ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Noting that the Sunshine State already has statutes about age appropriate sexual education, Maurer said HB 1557 is “about finding a place to erase our existence and be able to not talk about us.”

Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, told the Washington Blade their research has found that “LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year.”

Addressing HB 1557 directly, Ames added, “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.”

Related: Florida Lawmakers To Consider Whether To Ban Or Enact LGBTQ Protections

A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult for The Trevor Project found “85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.”

The study also reports that policies requiring schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or identify as LGBTQ at school evoked anger (45%), nervousness (34%), and stress (32%) among LGBTQ+ youth.