The LGBT community is, again, under attack by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans in the Florida Legislature.
This time, the community is fighting back.
On Tuesday LGBT people and allies gathered to rally against a pair of bills moving through the legislature at an alarming speed. HB 1557 and SB 1834 say schools “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
About 300 people gathered outside The Pride Center at Equality Park to protest the bills. If passed, teachers wouldn’t discuss anything LGBT, Gay/Straight Alliance Clubs would be threatened, and schools would cease to be a safe place for students dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
“This definitely makes bullying and being exclusionary to other people, concrete,” Bryanna Turner, a 21-year-old trans college student, said after the rally. “It’s the government giving a green light to all the bullying and exclusion and denying your identity.”
She says these bills will even make schools that appear friendly, hostile to LGBT students, and cites her own experience as anecdotal proof.
“Although the school was, on paper, good with LGBT rights, I still had teachers that would say transphobic stuff. That legitimized all the bullying and homophobia that was happening.”
Clergy from several local churches were on hand to support the community. Rev. Patrick Rogers of UCC Fort Lauderdale wanted to represent so that people, especially young people, know there is support in the religious community.
“We should be here today so that people know that not all of the faith community backs a bill like this. Homophobia comes from the faith community. That’s where it started.”
Before the rally, Queer News Tonight did its evening show live from The Pride Center, and the entire panel was made up of teens who are very close to this issue.
PRISM founder and CEO, 19-year-old Maxx Fenning, led the discussion.
“It speaks to just how dire a situation queer youth face. We need this platform and platforms like it to create a world that meets the needs of young people as a collective. We say that youth are the future. Let's ensure our generation has the resources to make that future bright.”
Defeating the proposals is an uphill battle. HB 1557 already passed out of one committee by an overwhelming vote of 15-5. Last year, a bill preventing trans youth from playing school sports passed and became law.
DeSantis is running for reelection this fall and may run for the White House run in 2024. He’s made scoring cheap political points off of LGBT youth a signature policy of his administration.