On March 28, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned public-school teachers in from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity after signing the controversial "Parental Rights in Education" measurenicknamed the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
The law reads, "A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels," per NPR. DeSantis signed the legislation while surrounded by children, Deadline noted.
During a press conference ahead of signing the law, DeSantis said information provided to kindergarten-aged kids that say "they can be whatever they want to be" was "inappropriate" for children.
Studies have shown that LGBTQ youth already face higher health and suicide risks than their cisgender or straight peers. When those kids are given access to spaces that affirm their gender identity, they report lower rates of suicide attempts, according to The Trevor Project.
Disney condemned the signing, saying, "Florida's HB 1557, also known as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law." The company had been criticizedfrom activists to employeesfor not speaking out earlier to try to stop the legislation as it made it through the statehouse. Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek acknowledged that it was a mistake not to do so, after earlier saying that the company preferred to work behind the scenes.
Pro-LGBTQ+ organizations condemned the new law.
Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jenningsa former teacher and senior U.S Department of Education officialsaid, "Gov. DeSantis will stop at nothing to serve his political ambitions even if it means hurting LGBTQ+ young people, some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
"LGBTQ+ youth deserve the same things that all young people deserve: To be seen, to be heard, and to be respected. Schools and curriculums that are inclusive of all young people and their families literally save lives. LGBTQ+ teens are at high risk of self-harm and attempting suicide, but that risk falls by 23% when they learn about sexual orientation and gender identity at school because they learn that they are not alone and that what they are experiencing is normal and their peers learn to respect them. The bill that Gov. DeSantis just signed into law does the exact opposite because it further isolates and stigmatizes LGBTQ+ people."
In a separate release, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, "This billand all the ones like itsingle out certain kids and families for derision and denigration. It is just wrong. Its intent is to divide our communities and make political hay, but it hurts children, hurts families and makes it hard for teachers to do their jobs. Make no mistake, this bill will have devastating real-world consequencesespecially for LGBTQIA+ youth who already experience higher rates of bullying and suicide. And for teachers and school staff who work tirelessly to support and care for their students, this bill is just another gross political attack on their professionalism."
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality Florida, in a joint statement, also condemned the statute. HRC Interim President Joni Madison stated, "Today, Gov. DeSantis once again placed Florida squarely on the wrong side of history, and placed his own young constituents directly in harm's wayand he has done this for no other reason than to serve his own political ambitions."
Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said of DeSantis, "He has attacked parents and children in our state by invoking hateful anti-LGBTQ stereotypes all to pander to his right-wing base as he prepares to run for president in 2024. DeSantis has damaged our state's reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place for all families, he has made us a laughing stock and target of national derision. Worse, he has made schools less safe for children.
Smith also said, "Equality Florida will defend the rights of all students to have a healthy environment to learn and thrive and for all parents to know their families are included and respected. This law will not stand and we will work to see it removed either by the courts as unconstitutional or repealed by the legislature."