Florida Gov. DeSantis Indicates Approval for 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday February 8, 2022

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seemingly indicated his approval for a controversial bill, promoted by GOP state lawmakers, that would ban classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity, CNN reported.

Speaking at a Feb. 7 press conference, DeSantis claimed, "We've seen instances of students being told by different folks in school, 'Oh, well, don't worry, don't pick your gender yet, do all this other stuff,'" CBS 4 news reported.

"They won't tell the parents about these discussions that are happening," DeSantis continued. "That is entirely inappropriate."

"It's the first time DeSantis has publicly signaled support for an effort by state Republican lawmakers to shut down certain conversations in schools about sexual orientation and gender identity," the CNN article detailed.

As previously reported at EDGE, the bill has drawn criticism from the state's Democratic lawmakers as well as LGBTQ+ advocates who warn that the measure could lead to children being silenced and marginalized at school for bringing up topics such as having an LGBTQ+ family member or same-sex parents. An early draft of the bill also prompted fears that LGTBQ+ youth could be outed against their wishes.

Another aspect of the bill that has sparked further concerns is that it reportedly weaponizes lawsuits against teachers and school officials by parents and "entitles the parents to potential monetary damages," news channel WFLA reported.

Chasten Buttigieg — a teacher and the husband of out Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg — recently spoke out against the bill, warning that it could "kill kids," tweeting that lawmakers in Florida were "purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in."

Buttigieg's tweet included a video of Democratic state lawmaker Jon Harris Maurer addressing his fellow Florida state lawmakers, saying, "We're parents, students, and teachers. We are your brothers and sisters. Conversations about us aren't something dangerous that should be banned."

LGTBQ+ conservative group the Log Cabin Republicans responded to Buttigieg's messaging by saying that Buttigieg was "fear mongering" and declared that the group would not "stand by while the Left engages in dishonest attempts to smear conservatives as bigots, as Chasten is unfortunately trying to do here."

Last year saw a record-setting number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in state houses across the country. While many targeted transgender youth, some also went after the LGBTQ+ community more broadly. Such legislative efforts have continued into 2022.

In a New York Times op-ed piece, writer Margaret Renkl noted how Tennessee lawmakers are considering a similar "Don't Say Gay" bill that would outlaw anything that might "promote, normalize, support or address lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles" in the classroom.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.