Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels
President Joe Biden has condemned a "hateful" homophobic bill in Florida that could see the discussion of sexual orientation in elementary schools being banned.
The proposed legislation was introduced by the state's House of Representatives and is thought to be able to be passed after getting backing from Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis. The Florida Senate Education Committee pushed a similar bill forwards on Tuesday (8 February)
Similar to Margaret Thatcher's Section 28 introduced in 1988, The Parental Rights in Education bill or 'Don't Say Gay' bill would apply where conversations around sexuality or gender identity were deemed "not age-appropriate", and would also include student counseling services.
"I have your back"
Tweeting on Tuesday (8 February), President Biden said: "I want 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 protections and safety you deserve."
I want 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 protections and safety you deserve. https://t.co/OcAIMeVpHL— President Biden (@POTUS) February 8, 2022
The bill would also allow parents to sue schools if they think that rules have been broken. If it is passed it will come into effect from 1 July 2022. CBS News reports that two more committees in Florida's House of Represenatives have to approve it first before it goes to the full chamber of House.
The state's governor, Ron DeSantis, said on Monday in Miami: "We've seen instances of students being told by different folks in school, 'Oh, don't worry. Don't pick your gender yet. Do all this other stuff.' They won't tell the parents about these discussions that are happening."
He called the above "entirely inappropriate" adding that schools should focus on teaching children to read and write.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida's response says it would "bar LGBTQ+ students from talking about their own lives and would deny their very existence. It is always appropriate for kids to talk about themselves, their experiences, and their family. These are not taboo subjects, but banning them makes them seem so."
Continuing it says "This bill does nothing to help and support our youth. Instead, it is meant to stigmatize LGBTQ+ people, isolate LGBTQ+ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing a welcoming and inclusive classroom. This bill will have a real and devastating impact on LGBTQ+ youth, who already experience higher rates of bullying, homelessness, and suicide."
The bill would require all “student support services trainings” in school districts to adhere to the guidelines and standards provided by the Florida Department of Education (DOE), which currently excludes anti-bullying resources intended to help prevent LGBTQ+ youth suicides.— ACLU of Florida (@ACLUFL) February 8, 2022
The LGBTQ charity, The Trevor Project released a survey last year of more than 82,000 LGBTQ young people which revealed that only a third felt their home was an affirming place and only 50 per cent said their school was.
75 percent said they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime.
The Attitude February issue is out now. Get your copy here.