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Furious students protest Florida’s ‘life-threatening’ and cruel ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

Maggie Baska February 3, 2022
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A young person holds a sign that reads "Let all our students continue to shine" during a protest against anti-LGBT+ legislation in Wilton Manors, Florida. (YouTube/CBS Miami)

Students and allies to the LGBT+ community have gathered to protest proposed legislation that would limit discussion about queer people in Florida schools.

A group of approximately 100 people and students gathered outside the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Florida, on Tuesday (1 February) to speak out against the anti-LGBT+ bill.

Lana Goff, an 11th grader in Broward County, told CBS Miami that she came out for the first time just a few years ago when she was in 7th grade.

She explained that she was scared about the impact that House Bill (HB 1557), which LGBT+ advocates have dubbed as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, could have on queer youth in the state.

“It just should be more normalised and talked about in class and not, ‘That’s kind of a touchy subject, let’s not talk about this,’” she said.

HB 1557 would prevent schools and teachers from encouraging discussion about LGBT+ identities at the “primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students”.

It would also allow parents to sue schools or teachers that engage in these topics in classrooms.

The bill has moved through the state’s House education and employment committee and has been handed off to another committee for debate.

Scott Galvin, executive director of LGBT+ education firm Safe Schools South Florida, told CBS Miami that the legislation would be a “radical rollback of the calendar”.

“It will stop teachers and schools from talking to kids about LGBTQ issues, and it will stop them from talking about gay issues among themselves,” he said.

Tom Landers, a former teacher and board member of Safe Schools South Florida, said it was important to fight the bill so young queer people can live their truth without fear.

“When I was young, I couldn’t be out, and it’s important,” Landers said. “As a history teacher, I always make sure that I mention people from all parts of our community.”

He said he couldn’t “imagine what’s going to happen” should the bill pass, and “we marginalise these students even more”.

Several LGBT+ advocates and even parents have spoken out against the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, slammed the bill in an explosive post on Twitter, declaring that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill will “kill kids”.

He added that Florida governor Rob DeSantis has “purposefully” made the state a “harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive”.

One parent, Colby Snaidman, argued in an op-ed for the Independent that, should the bill pass, their children will have to hide a vital part of their identity – similar to when they were growing up.

They shared that there were “not many out and open LGBTQ+ students” when they were growing up. Snaidman said this group would band together to show their support for each other, but they faced opposition from school administrators.

“We would wear rainbow bracelets and be told to remove them,” Snaidman wrote. “We would write ‘Gay Pride’ on our hands or arms and be told to wash them.”

They continued: “When we asked why, the administration would say, ‘It’s distracting to the other students’, or, ‘It’s not conducive to the learning environment’.”

Almost “fourteen years later”, they said lawmakers are “poised to allow school employees” and administrators to “force LGBTQ+ students back into the closet while at a place of learning”.

Snaidman called on Floridians and the LGBT+ community to band together to fight against legislation that would allow “hate and fear to reign”.

“I hope that one day I can look my children in the eyes and tell them that Florida stood up for us,” they wrote.

More: Florida, Rob DeSantis

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