Tampa Bay students protest the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Photo: ABC Action News

In late March 2022, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that states that “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The law also states that parents are eligible to sue school districts in violation of this. The new law, which many members of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, has aroused a cultural controversy throughout the country. DeSantis believes that it is the responsibility of parents to educate their children regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. “We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination,” said DeSantis just moments before turning this bill into a law.

Backlash from members of the LGBTQ+ community, its supporters, students, Democrats and the entertainment industry began nearly immediately after the bill was introduced. The law was condemned by many attendees of this year’s Academy Awards, and even President of the United States Joe Biden called the law “hateful.” Many Florida students have gathered in protest against the law, chanting, “We say gay!” The Walt Disney Company, which holds a lot of political power and influence in Florida, brought its political donations in the state to a pause, and the company’s CEO Bob Chapek received criticism for being slow in responding to the law. After the law was signed, Disney released a statement, which says, “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”

“The bill’s intentionally vague language leaves teachers afraid to talk to their students and opens up school districts to costly and frivolous litigation from those seeking to exclude LGBTQ people from any grade level,” said Florida Representative Carlos G. Smith, who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community himself. He then said that #DontSayGay sends a hateful and negative message to the youth of today in need of support. The President of the Florida Education Association Andrew Spar says that the law is built on falsehood, and “that falsehood is that somehow we’re teaching kids inappropriate topics at an early age, and clearly we’re not.” Many have assumed that the law permits school staff members to “out” students to their families, but Republican Florida Rep. Joe Harding denied those claims. “Nothing in the amendment was about outing a student,” he said. “Rather than battle misinformation related to the amendment, I decided to focus on the primary bill that empowers parents to be engaged in their children’s lives.”

This new law being enforced in Georgia has only been lightly discussed, but still is a possibility. On March 8, 2022, Georgia officials proposed a bill that would forbid private schools funded by the state from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation. While many celebrities and other influential figures shared their very strong opinions about Florida’s law, very few, if any, have publicly discussed Georgia’s. No Georgia-based companies in the entertainment industry, including Tyler Perry Studios, Trilith Studios and multiple others, were willing to comment on the situation. This silence may imply that this law coming to Georgia is only a possibility, and likely will not happen. This does not mean that it will not happen, it’s just unlikely at the moment.

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.