Florida expands cruel and spiteful ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to ban LGBTQ+ lessons across all grades

Florida’s Board of Education has voted to expand the state’s vile ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to all school grades, meaning any form of LGBTQ+ content is effectively banned in all classrooms. 

The Parental Rights in Education law, better known as Don’t Say Gay for its focus on the LGBTQ+ community, was expanded from the third grade to eighth grade just three weeks ago

On Wednesday (19 April) the law was expanded once more, meaning discussions on LGBTQ+ topics are now barred from kindergarten through to the 12th grade. 

The expansion “prohibits classroom instruction to students in pre-kindergarten through grade three on sexual orientation or gender identity”, while for grades four to 12 such discussions are prohibited except when “such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards” or part of an optional sex ed class. 

The amendment adds such topics cannot be carried out “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards”, ABC News quoted from the legislation. 

Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed the inital ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legisaltion into force in 2022 ( Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Many LGBTQ+ and civil rights groups have pointed out the legislation is extremely vague, meaning many teachers could become cautious even mentioning they have a same-sex partner or having a rainbow sticker in their classroom, for fear of being sued by parents or losing their job. 

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LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Florida described the Don’t Say Gay expansion as an “insatiable” “lust for government censorship”. 

“Let’s put it plainly: this is part of the governor’s assault on freedom. Free states do not ban books. Free states do not censor entire communities out of the classroom,” a spokesperson for the group wrote, “Free states do not wage war on LGBTQ people to score cheap political points for a man desperate to be POTUS.”

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Adding: “This policy will escalate the government censorship sweeping our state, exacerbate our educator exodus, drive hardworking families from Florida, and further stigmatize and isolate a population of young people who need our support now more than ever.

“Shame on the DeSantis administration for putting a target on the backs of LGBTQ Floridians.” 

A spokesperson for Human Rights Campaign said: “Erasing queer history and content doesn’t ‘protect’ anyone – it tells LGBTQ+ people that our existence doesn’t matter.”

“Remember when the FL GOP told us to ‘read the bill’ when we opposed #DontSayGay and said it would not apply to all grade levels and only up to 3rd grade?” Democrat Anna V Eskamani said, “Well, here we are.”

The expansion comes as Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, who signed the initial bill into effect in March 2022, gears up to run as the GOP candidate in the 2024 presidential election. 

DeSantis has created a platform for himself by stoking culture wars in the state and is appeasing to extreme conservative voters by fighting against anything “woke”. 

The governor has avoided commenting on the legislation directly, with education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. telling the media and public the expansion aims to “clarify” where teachers stand. “We’re not removing anything here,” Diaz Jr. said, quoted by the Associated Press, “All we are doing is we are setting the expectations so our teachers are clear: that they are to teach to the standards.”

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