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Florida Passes 'Don't Say Gay' Bill, Now Let Those Lawsuits Fly!
Or wait five minutes until DeSantis signs it.
The Florida state Senate passed the "Don't Say Gay" bill Tuesday on a mostly party-line vote, and now it will go to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has said he plans to sign it so he can be the top culture warrior in the GOP headed into the 2024 Republican primaries, unless perhaps Texas Gov. Greg Abbott can pass a bill requiring public beheadings of public school administrators who impose mask mandates.
Florida's House Bill 1557 , the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, prohibits "classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade, but also forbids any discussion of either topic "in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards." That latter standard, many worry, could be used to ban all discussion of LGBTQ topics if a district decides it's not age-appropriate.
Parents would be able to sue school districts over violations, which should ensure a steady stream of litigation against public schools.
Florida Politics notes that two Republican state senators, Jeff Brandes and Jennifer Bradley, voted against the bill. Brandes had previously tried to amend the bill to cover all discussions of human sexuality, while Bradley said, rather nonspecifically, that she didn't like the bill's "message":
“I want to support parental rights in school but I’m also mindful of our Legislature’s voice. I’m a mom to three children and I love all of the children in the state of Florida, and I’m concerned about the message it sends,” she said.
Rep. Carlos G. Smith (D), who is gay, was able to articulate that message a lot more clearly, the AP reports:
This bill, from its introduction, has been used as vehicle to marginalize and attack LGTBQ people ... [It] sends a terrible message to our youth that there is something wrong with LGBTQ people, that there is something so dangerous or inappropriate about us that we have to be prohibited and censored from the classroom.
On the other hand, it's popular with rightwing Evangelicals and midterms are coming up, so it's very important. It's not like LGBTQ people are fully American.
In debate Monday, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Dennis Baxley, explained why he thought the legislation is needed: Maybe being gay or transgender is only a fad, and maybe the state can tamp down on all the kids turning gay by preventing children from knowing that gay and trans people exist.
Baxley's gay panic candor was prompted by a question from state Sen. Tina Polsky (D), who asked why, of the many potentially controversial or difficult things young kids might hear about in school, they needed to be shielded by law from any mention of LGBTQ people. That led Baxley to recall a discussion he'd had with his son, a psychiatrist and therefore an expert on everything:
After hours of denying his bill singled out gays, Senator @dennisbaxley admitted the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill was drafted because he was personally concerned so many kids today identify as gay and see themselves as “celebrities.” @CBSMiamipic.twitter.com/VI9cGiBNiN
— Jim DeFede (@Jim DeFede) 1646701733
Baxley: We are in a trending posture right now where — I mean, my son's a psychiatrist and I said, "why is everybody now all about coming out when you're in school?" There really is a dynamic of concern of how much of this are genuine type of experiences and how many of them are just kids trying on different kinds of things they hear about and different kinds of identities, and experimenting? That's what kids do, you know. Maybe they're in this club, or they're in that club, or they're into this. And they're trying on all these different identities of life, trying to see where they fit in.
And I said, "Am I crazy or what? All of a sudden we're having all of these issues come up about this topic with their sexuality and gender." And I said "I don't understand why that's such a big wave right now." And he said, "Dad, all the professionals don't agree but in fact it's a real trend of change." I just read an article this week we're trying to all figure out why this is happening.
That's some very good sciencing there: Baxley perceived that there's a lot more kids who are out these days, and back in the good old days when people could be fired or beaten up or labeled "deviant" and maybe subjected to psychiatric treatment to turn them straight, he didn't see as many gay people, so maybe it's a crazy fad like pogs or the hula hoop.
Baxley went on, oh, how he went on:
Some of it is, I'm sure, cultural shift of what's accepted and that kind of thing. But I know some of it is just the confusion that kids go. Particularly when you get to middle school and high school, there's a lot of white water. You don't get it right, you just get them through it. It's a maturation of them growing, and things are happening for them. So my question is simply, "Are we encouraging this, or illuminating it by putting emphasis on it, or are we helping something?"
You see? He just cares so much about young people who might be confused about their identity that he wants to make sure they mature the right way, which is to be straight and cisgender.
Baxley's also very worried that a lot of kids decide to become gay or trans out of a goofy adolescent need to stand out.
And I think 75 percent of people that I see polled on this bill, they agree with me that there's something wrong with how we're emphasizing this, and how, all of a sudden, overnight, they're a celebrity when they felt like they were nobody. And so I don't know how those pieces, parts play.
Somehow, Baxley managed to get through that without saying "flamboyant." He may not know how much sexual identity is influenced by that desire to be a celebrity, but he suspects the full force of state law ought to snuff it out.
Polsky attempted to summarize Baxley's thoughts, such as they were:
Polsky: So basically, what I just heard you say, just to confirm, that there seems to be a big uptick in the number of children who are coming out as gay or experimenting, and therefore we need to not discuss it in the younger grades. Is that correct?
Baxley: Those are the reminiscing of a father and a grandfather, trying to figure out what makes kids tick. And that is part of why I'm attracted to this bill, is I don't want to be putting — we know there's social inputs into how people act and what they decide to do. So yeah, that's part of our concern for the wellbeing of our children.
You see, society is telling people that they're not filthy disgusting perverts, and Baxley simply wants to give kids a safe place to not be influenced by such dangerous messages of love and acceptance.
The bill now goes to DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law, and then the lawsuits against Florida's Bigotpalooza can begin.
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