A Florida House committee on Thursday passed a bill seeking to ban discussions of sexuality and gender identity in school classrooms, which LGBTQ+ advocates say will effectively “erase” LGBTQ+ history, culture, and students.
The Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed Thursday in the House Education and Employment Committee largely along party lines.
“This bill is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent,” Florida state Rep. Joe Harding (R), who first introduced the bill, said Thursday. “That job can only be given to you by above.”
Harding’s bill, along with its companion bill introduced Tuesday by Florida state Sen. Dennis Baxley (R), would block teachers in Florida from talking about LGBTQ+ topics that are not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
According to the bill, parents may take legal action against their child’s school district and be awarded damages if they believe any of its policies infringe on their “fundamental right to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”
Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of transportation secretary and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, after the bill had passed called out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for making Florida a more hostile place for LGBTQ+ youth.
“This will kill kids,” he wrote Thursday on Twitter. “You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in.”
Buttigieg in his tweet also referenced a recent survey by the Trevor Project, a LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group, which found 42 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
A separate report from the Trevor Project found that LGBTQ+ youth who learned about LGBTQ+ people or issues in school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the last year.
Among middle and high school LGBTQ+ students, 19 percent who reported never learning about LGBTQ+ issues or people in school attempted suicide in the last year compared to 16 percent of students who had received LGBTQ+-related lessons.
Other advocates have criticized the language of one of the Florida bill’s provisions, which would require educators and administrators to effectively “out” known LGBTQ+ students to their parents without their consent.
“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,” Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, said in a statement. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”