March 8, 2022

Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, and GLAAD, the world's largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, are responding to the Florida legislature passing the “Don’t Say Gay” state bill to ban discussion in schools about sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The bill passed in the state Senate over bipartisan objection, 22-17; 8 Republican lawmakers, including the leader of one of the largest child welfare organizations in Florida, voted against the bill in the Florida House. It now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has indicated he will sign it.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill text prohibits “a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grades” and encourages parents to sue schools they feel violated the measure.

An estimated 4.6% of Floridians are LGBTQ and 24% of LGBTQ people in Florida are raising children. 30% of LGBTQ people in Florida are Latinx/Latine, 12% are Black.

Gov. DeSantis has yet to rebuke or respond to his spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, after she inaccurately and offensively spread misinformation about LGBTQ Floridians and all those who support them, tweeting: “The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill,” Pushaw tweeted. “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.” 

Statement from Equality Florida, on Twitter and here:
“The Don’t Say Gay bill has passed the FL legislature and now goes to the governor’s desk. Let us be clear: should its vague language be interpreted in any way that causes harm to a single child, teacher, or family, we will lead legal action against the State of Florida to challenge this bigoted legislation. We will not sit by and allow the governor’s office to call us pedophiles. We will not allow this bill to harm LGBTQ Floridians. We will not permit any school to enforce this in a way that endangers the safety of children. We stand ready to fight for Floridians in court and hold lawmakers who supported this bill accountable at the ballot box. At every turn, the Florida legislature rejected reasonable amendments to this legislation and refused to mitigate its harm. Now, in deference to the extreme political agenda of the Governor, the Florida Senate has passed the hateful Don’t Say Gay bill and sent it to his desk. Lawmakers rejected the voices of tens of thousands who sent emails and made phone calls asking for them to put a stop to this bill, thousands of courageous students who walked out of class, hundreds of people who testified before their bodies, dozens of child welfare organizations and leaders who spoke up to name the harms of the bill, and their own Republican colleagues who refused to support it. Instead, they locked arms with the angry mobs hurling anti-LGBTQ slurs at those asking for nothing more than a safe place to go to school without having to hide who they are. Our fight for full equality continues.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis responded on Twitter, and here:
“This bill brands Florida land of the 'less free' by legalizing censorship and harming LGBTQ students and families. Banning discussion of LGBTQ people in school is an effort to silence and shame, to divide and disrespect, when all students should feel safe to learn about themselves and each other. To every LGBTQ child and every LGBTQ parent in Florida, you do belong and we know that history is on our side. Governor DeSantis is playing political football with LGBTQ Floridians. Other GOP leaders around the country who claim to be LGBTQ allies should be speaking against this 'Don't Say Gay' bill, urging Gov. DeSantis to veto it, and fighting the tidal wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation around the country. Gov. DeSantis' disdain and cruelty towards LGBTQ Floridians is noted and appalling.”

Hundreds of Florida students organized rallies at their schools against the bill, including at the state capitol in Tallahassee. The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill has received widespread alarm from LGBTQ parents and parents of LGBTQ children, like Judy Shepard and Chasten Buttigieg. Other notables who have spoken out include Florida Rep. Val Demings, FL state Reps. Anna Eskamani,  actor George Takei, and author Keith Boykin.

Out elected officials in Florida responded to Gov. DeSantis’ spokesperson’s inaccurate and harmful tweets: “Bigoted attacks like this against LGBTQ people are the worst of the worst,” state Rep. Carlos G. Smith (D), tweeted Sunday, adding that Pushaw “must resign.” 

State Sen. Shevrin Jones spoke from the Senate floor today before the vote: "To those who think you can legislate gay people away, I'm sorry. You cannot. I think you should legislate to protect them.” 

State Rep. Michelle Rayner-Goolsby encouraged LGBTQ youth in her speech from the House floor last week: "You matter. I see you. You are loved. You are perfect just the way you are."

Buttigieg, a former educator, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and father of newborn twins, appeared on CNN and quoted research from The Trevor Project noting 42% of LGBTQ youth have considered suicide: “What kind of state are you building where you're essentially pushing kids back into the closet and saying we can't talk about you? We can’t talk about your families. As a kid who was told for 18 years, ‘you don’t belong, something is wrong,’ sometimes you take that trauma to heart and there are a lot of kids who might do the worst.”

Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, appeared on CNN with Anderson Cooper describing the bill’s harm to vulnerable children and the chilling effect it would have on LGBTQ students needing support at school: “It’s their elected leaders telling them they’re unworthy. That they’re somehow wrong, and not giving them an opportunity to become themselves. It also gives no outlet for the districts to counter bullying. We know that bullying is a huge issue for the gay kids that happen to be at that school. There is no school that doesn’t have gay kids, that’s just ridiculous to think.” 

Additional research:

  • GLAAD and Equality Florida have been tracking Gov. Ron Desantis policies, rhetoric and actions targeting LGBTQ people via the GLAAD Accountability Project.
  • “Don’t Say Gay/Trans” is among 195 bills proposed in state legislatures and tracked by Freedom for All Americans, most targeting transgender youth.
  • Polls show wide support for laws protecting LGBTQ people - 76%. Less than one in five Americans (19%) oppose nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans. 

About Equality Florida:

Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Through education, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and lobbying, we are changing Florida so that no one suffers harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For more information, visit or follow Equality Florida on Facebook and Twitter.