Washington Post Editorial Board tears into GOP’s ‘small-minded and harmful culture war’

Washington Post Editorial Board tears into GOP’s ‘small-minded and harmful culture war’
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) (Shutterstock).

The Washington Post’s Editorial Board on Tuesday ripped into the Republican Party’s escalating assaults on free speech and LGBTQ+ Americans as state legislatures across the country enact draconian legislation to legalize discrimination.

“Florida’s Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would bar schools from teaching students in kindergarten through third grade topics relating to gender identity and sexuality, and would vaguely require lessons for older students to be ‘age-appropriate.’ The Parental Rights in Education bill — often called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — would also allow parents to sue districts they suspect of violating these provisions. The measure now heads to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has signaled he is prepared to sign it,” the Board wrote.

“The Florida legislation is the most high-profile example of a multistate trend,” the editors said. “At least 15 bills to restrict or penalize conversations about gender and sexual orientation are being considered in nine states, the free-speech organization PEN America reported last month.”

Arizona, for instance, wants students to receive parental consent to join any club “involving sexuality, gender or gender identity.” In Tennessee, the GOP seeks to ban books and other materials that “promote, normalize, support, or address … (LGBT) lifestyles or issues.” And in Oklahoma - which has the 7th-highest teen pregnancy rate in the United States – the subject of sexual education is under attack. Republicans aim to eliminate “the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature.”

In nearly all of these cases, libraries are specifically targeted. In fact, just this week, Idaho Republicans approved a proposal to hold librarians criminally culpable for inventorying books that "small government" right-wing bigots deem inappropriate. Wyoming tried a nearly identical approach last year but prosecutors refused to enforce it. Worse still, in Texas, parents of transgender kids are being investigated for child abuse for providing gender-affirming therapies and surgeries to their children.

The cruelty is the point.

“There is no justifiable reason for any of these measures,” the Board wrote. “They are all rooted in the anachronistic belief that discussions about gender and sexuality somehow endanger children. But for many LGBTQ kids, schools can be an important lifeline for information — and a source of comfort that they are not alone. In a recent survey, the Trevor Project found that 42 percent of LGBTQ youths seriously considered suicide in the past year. Eliminating mention of these topics will only isolate these children further and deprive students of a chance to learn about their identities and those of their peers.”

Proponents of these medieval muzzlings claim to be defending parental rights. That, however, is a sneaky smokescreen.

These bills, the editors noted, “are an intrusive attempt to restrict speech in schools. And just like efforts against the specter of critical race theory, they seek to expunge important truths about our history and world from classrooms.”

Above all, these horrific laws do not make anyone safer or smarter.

“As damaging proposals emerge in more and more states,” the Board concluded, “it’s children who will pay the price for Republicans’ cynical attempts to win votes by inflaming a small-minded and harmful culture war.”

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