Republicans have debased themselves with attacks on the LGBTQ community throughout the Trump era. They continue to stoop to new lows today with cynical attacks in two GOP-controlled southern states against children by using people’s sexual orientation to whip up hate.
This level of idiocy in our legislative process is dangerous and unfortunately all too prevalent within Republican Party politics. Fortunately, the Biden White House is already speaking out against this newest attack on the freedoms of all Americans and the LGBTQ community and their warning should be heeded in all 50 states. The Biden administration says the GOP’s attack in Florida and now Tennessee is increasingly looking like more than just concurrent action. A White House spokesperson said:
“Make no mistake — this is not an isolated action. Across the country, we’re seeing Republican leaders take actions to regulate what students can or cannot read, what they can or cannot learn, and most troubling, who they can or cannot be. This is politics at its worst, cynically using our students as pawns in political warfare.”
Florida continues its spiral down into far-right insanity as its Governor Ron DeSantis (R) announced his support for an intolerant and hateful bill that would prohibit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender in schools.
Following DeSantis’ endorsement the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as critics have dubbed it, easily passed the Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee despite criticism that it would negatively impact the mental health of LGBTQ children and their families.
Asked by reporters at a Miami press conference, Governor DeSantis said it was “entirely inappropriate” for teachers to be having conversations with students about gender identity, going on a diatribe about how teachers discourage children to identify with a specific gender and claiming that teachers are “hiding” lessons from parents. No proof of any of this actually happening was ever provided.
Intolerance and bigotry don’t seem to be limited to Florida when it comes to these homophobic efforts to erase gay youth in our schools, unfortunately. In Tennessee, State Representative Bruce Griffey (R) has introduced a similar bill to the one being advanced in Florida due to his belief that schools should not be allowed to “promote LGBTQ issues or lifestyles”.
Rep. Griffey is now channeling his profound ignorance into a reactionary GOP bill meant to punish children by erasing their identities. It truly is despicable. Apparently, the Tennessee Republican lawmaker is also totally ignorant about the constitutional concept of separation of church and state, as the primary reason he has given for his bill is that he wants schools to teach Christian values to students.
“The state of Tennessee is not allowed to teach my daughters Christian values that I think are important and they should learn, so I teach those at home,” Rep. Griffey said, “So if those are not part of the school curriculum, I don’t see how LGBTQ and other issues and social lifestyles should be part of the curriculum.”
It’s tragic that we have Republican lawmakers in this country who cite the constitution to propagate hate laws, but can’t be bothered to read even the First Amendment, which clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
What’s even more concerning is that this bigoted and unconstitutional piece of legislation increasingly appears to be part of a potentially coordinated effort by Republican politicians to attack LGBTQ communities. The GOP has a long history of coordinating action across statehouses with groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) amongst the leaders in cross-border bad ideas.
Fresh off his failure to clearly condemn the Nazis in his state, Ron DeSantis is not just attacking LGBTQ youth, but another one of his legislative proposals seeks to prohibit unaccompanied migrant children from being reunited with loved ones in Florida.
We have made great strides in terms of promoting equality and tolerance of each other within this country. It’s so shameful that there are politicians that seek to turn back the clock on those efforts for political gain.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. Twitter: @tomaskenn.
This is an opinion column.
is a former reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a fomer Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.