A new generation of Don’t Say Gay bills is here
There are two types of “Don’t Say Gay” laws: the old generation and the new one.
The old generation
The old generation of laws was quickly deemed discriminatory because they clearly mentioned homosexuality. Most of these laws no longer exist.
The new generation
The new generation of laws like the one being discussed in Florida is much vaguer than their predecessors. They no longer mention homosexuality to avoid being considered discriminatory by a judge. These laws now only mention sexual orientation and gender identity, which remain vague, even though it is clear who they are aimed at.
Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is part of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ broader agenda on parents’ rights in education.
If approved, the bill would prohibit teachers from “encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
The new law would also allow parents to sue schools if they feel that the school “encourages” discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation that they feel are inappropriate.
With such vague wording, the bill raises many questions.
Rep. Michele Rayner
Queer state Representative Michele Rayner spoke about how vague this new bill is.
“What does encouraging mean? What does that look like? Is ‘encouraging’ a student bringing in a picture of their parents who happen to be of the same gender? Is that encouraging? Or is it a student saying, ‘I am gay’ and then the teacher says, ‘OK,’” Rayner told Newsweek. “You’re simply allowing a child to be who they are—is that encouraging?”
Brandon Wolf, a spokesperson for Equality Florida wonders:
“Does it mean that school districts could no longer host Women’s History Month conversations in classrooms because being a woman is a gender identity? If school districts allow teachers to put pictures of their partners on their desks—is that encouraging students to ask questions about sexual orientation based on the gender identity of their partner?”
And the bill is so broad that it allows for exceptions.
For example, the mention of LGBTQ people in U.S history could still be allowed as long as it is “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
The impact of such a bill
With or without exceptions, the implications of this bill would be devastating for LGBTQ+ students in Florida.
The new law would send a message to these students that they are not welcome in school and that their sexual identity or orientation should be ashamed of.
How have similar bills been received in other states?
A few years ago, “Don’t Say Gay” bills explicitly mentioning homosexuality were popping up all over the U.S. In the end, it was determined that many of these measures were discriminatory and thus should be removed.
South Carolina is the latest state to strike down this kind of law. In 2020, a federal judge argued the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Only four states - Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma - have kept their old-generation “Don’t Say Gay” laws, which were passed around twenty or thirty years ago but haven’t been repealed yet.
Last year, Tennessee and Montana have approved “Don’t Say Gay” legislation to prohibit classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continues his ruthless attacks on LGBTQ students after recently banning any legal action for transgender students who want to play their favorite sport in a team consistent with their gender identity.