'Assault on freedom': Critics blast expansion of Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, though his Department of Education and its chair, Manny Diaz, has officially expanded his “Don’t Say Gay” law to include all public school grades, from kindergarten through 12th. DeSantis had promoted the highly-controversial and possibly unconstitutional law originally as applying only to children through third grade.
“DeSantis has not commented on the proposal. He previously directed questions to Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., who said it was meant to clarify confusion around the existing law and reinforce that teachers should not deviate from existing curriculums,” according to the Associated Press, a claim that is in direct conflict with how DeSantis and Republicans in Florida and across the country framed the law last year.
“The board voted Wednesday to adopt a new rule that says Florida teachers in grades 4 through 12 ‘shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction … on sexual orientation or gender identity’ unless this instruction is required by state academic standards — it is not — or the lessons form ‘part of a reproductive health course’ from which a student’s parent can opt out their child,” The Washington Post reports.
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Unlike the original law, DeSantis has made this an administrative change, requiring no vote from the people’s elected representatives.
“Supporters of the rules,” ABC News adds, “argue that ‘there is no reason for instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to be part of K-12 public education. Full stop,’ according to a spokesperson for DeSantis, who has backed restrictions on education about race, gender identity and sexual orientation and more in his war on ‘woke.'”
Outrage was swift.
Political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen described the move to ban any instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity, “barring the acknowledgment of the existence of LGBT people for all K-12 Florida students.”
Jack Petocz, a political strategist for the group Gen-Z for Change who describes himself as a “Gay student activist living rent free in Ron DeSantis’ mind,” did not hold back.
“As legislators try to erase queer people from public schools, a REMINDER that youth will never comply. We will never accept a world that deems bigotry the status quo and censors our classmates,” Petocz said on Twitter. “They are fucking around, and they’re gonna find out one day soon.”
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Artist, activist, and producer Barbara Malmet said: “Don’t say gay. Don’t say period. Don’t say racist history. Don’t say Disney. Don’t say abortion. Do say anyone can carry a gun without a permit. All of it in DeSantis’ Florida.”
“Instead of winning young voters, Republicans plan to keep them ignorant,” observed well-known political commentator and author Keith Boykin.
“The lust for government censorship is insatiable,” said Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, in a Twitter thread.
“Let’s put it plainly,” the group added, “this is part of the Governor’s assault on freedom. Free states do not ban books. Free states do not censor entire communities out of the classroom. Free states do not wage war on LGBTQ people to score cheap political points for a man desperate to be POTUS.”
“This policy will escalate the government censorship sweeping our state, exacerbate our educator exodus, drive hardworking families from Florida, and further stigmatize and isolate a population of young people who need our support now more than ever.”
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