March 28, 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 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing the  “Don't Say Gay/Trans” bill into law. 

The law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2022, 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.

DeSantis signed the bill into law at a signing ceremony at Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, Fla., surrounded by school-aged children. That school will not be affected by the governor’s action because it is a charter school.

Prior to passage, Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book filed an amendment to clarify what “classroom instruction” means. Supporters of the bill have repeatedly said that it is limited to “curriculum,” which is not the same as “discussion” (as in the text of the bill) or classroom “instruction.” The amendment failed, leaving the law’s parameters vague. This is the “Don’t Say Gay” bill text.  

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 used inaccurate language and made false claims about gender identity being taught in classrooms such as "we see a focus on 'transgenderism' [sic]." (GLAAD's Media Reference Guide notes that transgender is an adjective and that there is no such term as the governor has repeated.) Gov. DeSantis has still refused to rebuke or respond to his spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, who spread offensive misinformation about LGBTQ Floridians and all those who support them. “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 Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida:
“Governor Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the most cowardly way possible today. He hid his agenda from the media and the public until the last moment, skulking onto a charter school campus that is exempt from the law and away from students who would protest his presence. He has attacked parents and children in our state by invoking hateful anti-LGBTQ stereotypes all to pander to his right-wing base as he prepares to run for President in 2024. DeSantis has damaged our state’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place for all families, he has made us a laughing stock and target of national derision. Worse, he has made schools less safe for children. Equality Florida will defend the rights of all students to have a healthy environment to learn and thrive and for all parents to know their families are included and respected. This law will not stand. We will work to see it removed either by the courts as unconstitutional or repealed by the legislature.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis responded on Twitter and here:
“This law doesn't solve any problem that exists. It’s simply a blatant attack on LGBTQ Floridians. For months the governor’s office used this legislation to smear and defame LGBTQ people in the ugliest terms and misrepresent what the bill actually says and does, which is censor classroom conversation and harass teachers. This law harms LGBTQ Floridians, and endangers the safety of school children. Gov. DeSantis signing the bill in a charter school, which will be unaffected by the new law, is the height of hypocrisy and his cowardice. We will stand side-by-side with Floridians to hold lawmakers who supported this bill accountable at the ballot box.”

Hundreds of Florida students organized rallies at their schools against the bill, including at the state capitol in Tallahassee. After the signing of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law, a number of Florida lawmakers decried the signing:

State Rep. Michelle Rayner-Goolsby tweeted a statement that read in part, “I am more determined than ever before to seek protections for our LGBTQ youth in Congress and I know the same youth have turned into advocates and staged demonstrations for themselves and their peers. Together, we will work across generations, across the aisle, and across the country. To undo the harm caused by talking heads of an increasingly embarrassing right-wing faction threatening our nation.” 

State Sen. Shervin Jones tweeted that the law “is just another stain on FL history. The party of ‘less government’ is becoming the party of authoritarianism & censorship… To every LGBTQ child, parent, and ally—we see you, we love you, and the fight has just begun.”

State Rep. Carlos G. Smith tweeted, “What will Governor #DeSantis do to support LGBTQ youth who are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers? What will the Governor do to address the fact that nearly 40% of homeless youth in Florida are LGBTQ? #SayGayAnyway.”

State Rep. Anna K. Eskamani tweeted, “Being #LGBTQ and caring about LGBTQ+ kids is not a leftist agenda. It's about compassion and caring about every type of family and kid, no matter who they are or who they love.”

Additionally, Oregon Governor Kate Brown tweeted, “In Oregon, we say gay. I'm horrified and outraged by the anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation that was just signed in Florida, making schools a less safe space for LGBTQIA+ kids. Oregon will always be a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place—no matter one’s sexual orientation or identity.”

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  204 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%. Fewer 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.