Florida Republicans are pushing a wave of Anti-LGBTQ legislation this year. House Bill 1557 and Senate Bill 1834, referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bills by opponents, herald their effort. House Bill 1557 will “[prohibit] a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner” and allow parents to sue if districts allegedly stray. Equality Florida (EQFL), a non-profit fighting gender and sexuality-based discrimination, called the bills a step backwards for the state. Senate Bill 1834, for example, prohibits a school district from normalizing or accepting LGBTQ lifestyles by “encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels.”
In a recent press release, EQFL warned the Don’t Say Gay bill “would further stigmatize the LGBTQ community, chill efforts to create inclusive school environments, and isolate LGBTQ young people who are already at staggeringly higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation than their peers.”
Other Pro-LGBTQ groups, including the National LGBTQ Task Force, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLSEN, and HRC among others similarly tore into the “Don’t Say Gay’ bill and championed Equality Florida’s fight.
House Bill 1557 and Senate Bill 1834 are getting the most attention, but they are just one of many in Florida’s lineup of bigotry bills. Senate Bill 1842, for example, alienates and endangers LGBTQ youth by restricting public schools from teaching about sex and STDs, including HIV, unless parents provide explicit written consent. An additional bill that undermines LGBTQ rights is HB 211, which makes it a crime for medical providers to perform gender-affirming surgeries for minors or to provide puberty blockers unless a child is intersex. This bill would criminalize such a practice, despite research showing the benefit for gender-affirming medical treatment for trans youth. Gender affirming hormone therapy demonstrates positive effects on body image and overall psychological well-being as well as reduced suicidality, and pubertal suppression has similar effects. Other studies also reveal that children are aware of their gender identity at a young age, so it could be argued that adolescents should have the right to access such treatment if done with their informed parental consent. Yet another bill, SB 1820, gives healthcare providers or insurers the ability to opt-out of providing or paying for health-care services that violate their moral, religious, or ethical beliefs, thereby granting them legal immunity to discriminate against patients.
Critics argue the legislature should be addressing more pressing issues facing the state and accuse Gov Ron DeSantis of making LGBTQ rights a political whipping boy.
“Governor DeSantis is pushing legislation to curb free speech, propagandize school curriculums, and monitor classroom conversations, private workplaces, and doctor’s offices — all in order to outflank Donald Trump to the right and build an onramp to run for President in 2024,” said Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. “As a parent of a 10-year-old, these bills fail to protect my child and our family. It is a tool for the state to censor and that encourages lawsuits against schools as a means of intimidation.”
Critics add that these bills are likely just the opening salvo in a larger war on LGBTQ youth, and that more bills will be coming down the pipe to advance a new bigotry platform for the presidency.