Florida: Republican panel advances bill to ban LGBTQ+ discussion in schools

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<span>Photograph: Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

A Republican-led committee in the Florida state house has advanced a bill that would ban all discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools, a move advocates say will “erase” LGTBQ+ students and history.

The Florida house education and employment committee passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, last week.

The bill requires the implementation of “procedures to reinforce fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing and control of their children”.

In addition to allowing parents to launch legal actions against school boards if they believe policies overstep that “fundamental right”, the bill bans teachers from discussing in classrooms LGBTQ+ topics “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students”.

“This bill is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent,” said the state representative Joe Harding, a Republican who introduced the bill.

“That job can only be given to you by above.”

In response, Jon Harris Maurer, public policy director for Equality Florida, said: “We’re parents, students and teachers. We are your brothers and sisters. Conversations about us aren’t something dangerous that should be banned.

“[This bill] is only talking about sexual orientation and gender identity and it’s stigmatizing because of that. Sexual orientation and gender identity is about who we love and who we are.”

Chasten Buttigieg, a n LGBTQ+ advocate who is married to the US secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, condemned Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, tweeting: “This will kill kids … You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ+ kids to survive in.”

Buttigieg cited data from the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. According to a national survey, 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide last year.

Moreover, 94% of LGBTQ+ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. The study also found that LGBTQ+ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempted suicide.

In a separate report, the Trevor Project found that LGBTQ+ youth who learned about LGBTQ+ issues or people in classrooms had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the last 12 months.

The Trevor Project has condemned the Florida bill, which in a statement last week it said “would effectively erase LGBTQ+ students and history”.

Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, said: “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.”

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