OPINION: The Potential Consequences of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels.

Recently, some states seem to be trying to pass more and more outrageously discriminatory legislation and policies which, if passed, would make life for members of the LGBTQIA+ community more difficult, if not dangerous. For example, Texas recently classified gender-affirming healthcare as a form of child abuse, which will almost certainly lead to more trauma for the children affected by Texas’ policy. The reasoning for such a policy seems to be nonexistent, considering how Texas seems to have much bigger problems such as their failing power grid, which directly caused the deaths of at least 246 people, although that number could be much higher. But then again, what was Governor Greg Abbott supposed to do? It’s an election year. Or maybe he’s trying to take the minds of his constituency off of the fact that he is responsible for electricity during the snowstorm being at $9,000 per megawatt-hour. But that all happened in Texas. At the same time, in Florida, the state is trying and succeeding to pass a bill that would ban teachers from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity” from kindergarten through third grade, allowing parents to sue school districts if they do so. The bill even had an amendment that would force a school to out a student to their parents, although that was withdrawn after intense scrutiny from around the nation. Basically, the bill’s language is so weak that it would allow for parents to sue a school district if a teacher read a book where a character had two moms or dads. And now that bill awaits Governor Ron Desantis’ signature in order to become a law in Florida. But why is Florida doing this now? 

It could be for a number of different reasons, but it seems to have taken after other civil rights-violating laws that have been passed recently, mainly the abortion ban in Texas that shifted the ability to sue anyone involved in an abortion from the state to random people, which has had disastrous consequences. Mainly, the ban has forced doctors to operate in fear of being sued by some random individual and keeps patients from receiving medical care in Texas that they need. But in terms of doing what the supporters of the bill wanted, it has done just that. This is probably why Florida seems to have copied the idea like a middle schooler would copy the math homework they forgot to do the night before. By shifting the ability to sue school districts to the parents rather than the state, the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will achieve the results that its supporters want, regardless of whether it is even constitutional to do so. And discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA+ community is definitely unconstitutional, even according to the Supreme Court.

In Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevents employers from discriminating against employees based on their “race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” includes homophobia and transphobia due to it being discrimination based on someone’s sex. But this is a relatively new decision, as it was decided during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the precedent can be used to argue against discrimination in all parts of life, and has been done effectively in the past. At the end of the day, that’s a major victory for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. But just as the Texas law ended up going to the Supreme Court where the Supreme Court allowed for the law to be enforced, the same thing is possible with Florida’s bill. At the end of the day, the most worrying part of the bill’s existence is not its contents but the possibility that it could be used to allow for discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community to stand unchallenged.