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HATEFUL: Florida Republicans just passed major anti-LGBTQ legislation to censor schoolteachers

HATEFUL: Florida Republicans just passed major anti-LGBTQ legislation to censor schoolteachers

BIGOTRY: Florida Republicans Pass Hateful "Don't Say Gay" Bill

Republicans in the Florida Legislature just passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, despite widespread opposition across Florida and controversy following Ron DeSantis’ spokesperson Christina Pushaw tweeting accusations that opponents of the bill are “groomers”, a reference to pedophiles.

“The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as Anti-Grooming Bill,” said Pushaw. She followed that up with: “If you’re against the anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer, or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4- to 8-year-old children.”

In case you didn’t catch that, the mouthpiece of the governor overseeing the third largest state in the country just called all opponents of a highly controversial and homophobic bill a bunch of pedophiles and faced no consequences for it. Despite outrage and condemnation from LGBTQ organizations, lawmakers, and advocates, Pushaw only doubled down on her comments by claiming that a “hit dog will holler”.

“They’re saying we’re all pedophiles. It’s unhinged, unreal,” said Democrat Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando. “And coming out of the Governor’s Office, it’s so ridiculous.”

Democratic Rep. Angie Nixon also called for Pushaw’s resignation.

Not only has Ron DeSantis refused to fire or even reign in his spokesperson, but he has also lashed out against reporters who have questioned him for supporting the homophobic legislation. Addressing a question at the strawberry Festival in Plant City, DeSantis accused a reporter of “pushing false narratives” and claimed, “it doesn’t matter what critics say”.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB 1557), effectively bans teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms. LGBTQ advocates say the measure would lead to further stigmatization of gay, lesbian and transgender children, causing more bullying and suicides within an already marginalized community.

As Republicans in the Florida Senate pushed the legislation forward, over 500 students participated in a massive walkout at the Winter Park High School in Orange County.

In Tallahassee, the Florida Capitol building was flooded with students voicing their opposition to the bill. The day started with a large press conference hosted by Equality Florida, an LGBTQ organization that has been at the forefront of leading the charge against the bill. 

Throughout the day, students gathered outside the legislative chambers and chanted so loud that the Republican lawmakers trying to erase gay youth could hear them inside. Some of the chants included “we say gay” and “1,2,3,4, we won’t take it anymore. 5,6,7,8, equal rights, gay or straight”.

“While those senators walk onto the Senate floor, they need to look you in the eye first and see your humanity before they vote on this bill,” Rep. Guillermo Smith, who identifies as LGBTQ, told the students gathered.

As lawmakers debated on the Senate Floor, the bill sponsor, Republican State Senator Dennis Baxley, admitted the homophobic intent behind the bill when saying it was drafted because he was personally concerned so many kids today identify as gay and see themselves as “celebrities.” Baxley is a notorious homophobe who once compared gay parents to people experiencing alcoholism and drug addiction.

Prior to the passage of the bill, I watched from inside the Senate Chambers as Republican lawmakers continued to spout homophobic remarks while stating their support for the bill. Most egregious was State Senator Ileana Garcia, already infamous for winning her seat after an election fraud scheme involving dark money being funneled to fake candidates. Garcia stated that being gay and LGBTQ is “not permanent”, proceeded to repeatedly misgender trans individuals in a rant that did not address the bill, and was even cut off by Senator Aaron Bean — who was presiding over the session — after Garcia used offensive language.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled Florida House on a 69-47 vote last month, with seven GOP members crossing the aisle to vote against it. The bill was ultimately passed by Florida Senate 22-17 and, if signed by DeSantis, it would go into effect in July. DeSantis has said he intends to sign the legislation into law.

It was telling that as Republicans focused on attacking LGBTQ youth by erasing them from schools, a coalition of Floridians impacted by the worsening affordable housing crisis was gathered outside the Capitol calling on lawmakers to do something to address actual issues impacting Floridians. Unfortunately, their pleas fell on deaf ears.


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

RELATED STORY: NO CHOICE: Florida GOP extremists pass a major bill restricting women’s rights

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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