January 26, 2022

Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, and GLAAD, the world's largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, are responding to the Florida legislature’s multiple bills targeting LGBTQ and other marginalized citizens, including a vote today prohibiting the teaching of LGBTQ and Black history and the root causes of discrimination, and the “Don’t Say Gay” state bill that would ban discussion in schools about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill text prohibits “a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grades” (the bill does not specify grades or ages), and encourages parents to sue schools they feel violated the measure. A Florida House committee is voting today on the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” which bans teaching about race and sex discrimination. Other bills make it a felony if a librarian or teacher discussed or shared a book a community member considers obscene, another bans abortions after 15 weeks, another allows healthcare providers to reject LGBTQ patients and others they “morally object” to. 

An estimated 4.6% of Floridians are LGBTQ and 24% of LGBTQ people in Florida are raising children. 30% of LGBTQ people are Latinx/Latine, 12% are Black.

Statement from Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon Wolf:
"The Don't Say Gay bill is yet another cog in the governor's Surveillance State agenda -- a slate of dangerous, bigoted bills designed to allow the DeSantis Administration to police every aspect of our lives, from classrooms to workplaces to doctor's offices. While the bill is intended to race Donald Trump to the right and curry favor with an extremist political base, it has terrifying consequences. It would further stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate already vulnerable young people, and chill attempts to create inclusive school environments. LGBTQ people are a normal, healthy part of society. We deserve to be seen, acknowledged, and celebrated just like everyone else -- not demonized and used as political pawns."

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis responded on Twitter, and here:
“School should be a place where students learn and find acceptance, not where talking about LGBTQ people is a crime. Florida Rep. Joe Harding and Sen. Dennis Baxley’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ proposal injects poisonous and dangerous politics into classrooms that include LGBTQ students and students with LGBTQ parents. Lawmakers who claim to support ‘parents’ rights’ should represent all parents. LGBTQ parents and parents of LGBTQ kids get to be included in any discussion about their children’s education.”

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill has received widespread alarm from LGBTQ parents and parents of LGBTQ children, like Judy Shepard and Chasten Buttigieg. Other notables who have spoken out include Florida Rep. Val Demings, FL state Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos G. Smith,  actor George Takei, and author Keith Boykin.

Buttigieg, a former educator, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and father of newborn twins, appeared on CNN this week and quoted research from The Trevor Project noting 42% of LGBTQ youth have considered suicide: “What kind of state are you building where you're essentially pushing kids back into the closet and saying we can't talk about you? We can’t talk about your families. As a kid who was told for 18 years, ‘you don’t belong, something is wrong,’ sometimes you take that trauma to heart and there are a lot of kids who might do the worst.”

Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, appeared on CNN with Anderson Cooper last night describing the bill’s harm to vulnerable children and the chilling effect it would have on LGBTQ students needing support at school: “It’s their elected leaders telling them they’re unworthy. That they’re somehow wrong, and not giving them an opportunity to become themselves. It also gives no outlet for the districts to counter bullying. We know that bullying is a huge issue for the gay kids that happen to be at that school. There is no school that doesn’t have gay kids, that’s just ridiculous to think.” 

Additional research:

  • GLAAD and Equality Florida have been tracking Gov. Ron Desantis policies, rhetoric and actions targeting LGBTQ people via the GLAAD Accountability Project.
  • Freedom for All Americans tracks anti-LGBTQ legislation across the U.S.
  • Polls show wide support for laws protecting LGBTQ people - 76%. Less than one in five Americans (19%) oppose nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans. 

About Equality Florida:
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Through education, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and lobbying, we are changing Florida so that no one suffers harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For more information, visit or follow Equality Florida on Facebook and Twitter.