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WALK OUT: Florida students protest as GOP pushes anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Say Gay” law

WALK OUT: Florida students protest as GOP pushes anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Say Gay” law

WALK OUT: Florida students protest as GOP pushes anti-LGBTQ "Don't Say Gay" law

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A day after Florida’s Republican Governor attacked students at his press conference, kids across the state are walking out of schools to protest his horrific “Don’t Say Gay” bill which recently has been debated in the state’s GOP-dominated legislature.

Florida Republicans are facing massive backlash due to their continued efforts to ban LGBTQ topics from school.

As lawmakers discussed what should be Florida’s new state dessert, the video shows that chants by dozens of students protesting what advocates have deemed as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill were audible inside the legislative chambers.

Florida students in schools across America’s third-largest state also joined in solidarity through massive walkouts calling on the homophobic and bigoted attacks against LGBTQ students to stop.

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These walkouts were first inspired by a tweet from a student in Flagler County that went viral and inspired other students in dozens of schools. It’s a great example of how one person’s voice can make a difference in politics.

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Governor Ron DeSantis has signaled his support for the hateful legislation, claiming in a Miami press conference that 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.

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No proof of any of this actually happening was ever provided.

Republicans have tried to censor debate regarding the “Don’t Say Gay” bill throughout the legislative session by cutting the speaking time for testimonies during committee hearings and even prohibiting prominent LGBTQ State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-49) from testifying during one of the hearings. Smith spoke at a rally with students protesting against the bill at the Florida Capitol today, proudly declaring that he is gay.

“Those of you who are LGBTQ youth, we stand with you, we see you, you matter, and we get up and fight for you every single day,” said Rep. Smith.

The bill is such discriminatory government overreach that the White House felt compelled to weigh in and criticize Ron DeSantis and Florida Republicans for their efforts to bully LGBTQ youth.

President Joe Biden says he wants “every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are.

“I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protection and safety you deserve,” Biden said in a written statement.

The President’s policy stands in stark contrast to Republican Senator Marco Rubio who literally ran away from my questions about the bill twice.

These Florida students understand that silencing LGBTQ students and prohibiting discussion of their experiences and issues in schools will only lead to further stigmatization of their lifestyles and more hate.

“One of the problems with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is that a lot of people already don’t understand LGBTQ+ issues and rights,” said William Lopez, a student at Gulf Coast High School who is gay.

“If we are censored in schools, it makes it even harder for the world to understand us, which risks more people disliking us.”

“Students are done with the #DontSayGay bullshit from @GovRonDeSantis and his @FloridaGOP bullies. Students across the state are walking out of classes to protest,” tweeted Harvard student David Hogg, who became a gun reform activist after surviving the Parkland Massacre. “Shout out to these students for going to the Capitol and getting directly in faces.”

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Instead of attacking Florida students in general and gay youth in particular or restricting teachers from talking about the realities of sexual orientation, Florida Republicans should spend more time tackling actual issues, such as increasing rent prices and lack of access to healthcare.

Unfortunately, they rather distract from real issues by attacking gay youth, but the kids are all right and they are fighting back.

Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He Tweets from @tomaskenn.

RELATED STORY: SELL OUT: Ron DeSantis is Throwing Floridians Under the Bus on Behalf of Corporate Interests

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this opinion column stated that the Florida legislature had already passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill due to an editing error. In reality, the bill is still being debated by the legislature. Occupy Democrats regrets the error.

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Thomas Kennedy
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.

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