Life in the world of “Don’t Say Gay” is a dark place.
A world where students, both LGBT and straight, are intimidated into silence and trusted teachers are scolded for even the slightest breach of government-enforced conservative orthodoxy.
This world is depicted in a new ad created by Equality Florida. They are fighting to keep SB 1834 and HB 1557, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bills, from passing the legislature, which would almost certainly be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The bills prevent any discussion of sexual orientation in lower grades, but is intentionally written to be as vague as possible so that it could be read to include discussions in junior high and high schools, prevent gay/straight alliances, and even keep teachers from having a picture of their same-sex spouse on their desk.
In the ad, a student gets up to read her essay about her heroes, her two moms and is encouraged by her teacher. A red light starts flashing, an alarm pierces the air, and the teacher is summoned to the principal’s office. This may seem like an extreme dramatization, but it is a look at the real consequences that will face students and teachers once “Don’t Say Gay” becomes law.
Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, says DeSantis is using students to score political points.
“Governor DeSantis is pushing legislation to curb free speech, propagandize school curriculums, and monitor classroom conversations, private workplaces, and doctor’s offices — all in order to outflank Donald Trump to the right and build an onramp to run for president in 2024. As a parent of a 10-year-old, these bills fail to protect my child and our family. It is a tool for the state to censor and that encourages lawsuits against schools as a means of intimidation.”
Equality Florida plans to release a second ad in the campaign.
Meanwhile, citizens are using guerilla tactics to get the attention of Republican legislators. Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, a Democrat representing District 47 outside Orlando, tweeted that people are calling lawmakers’ offices, saying “Gay!” and then hanging up.
In the current, GOP-dominated legislature “Don’t Say Gay” appears undefeatable. Any path to killing the bills is up to voters supporting groups like Equality Florida and making their views known, loudly and often, that they support students and teachers.