“Don’t Say Gay” Bill in Florida

Ruby Merenda '24, Reviews Editor

The Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act, nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, was recently passed by the Florida Senate and is headed to Governor Ron DeSantis’ office where he will either veto or sign it. It seems he is leaning toward the latter, as he has voiced his support for the bill numerous times and called critics of the bill “groomers.” If approved, the bill will go into effect in July. 

Although the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has many parts to it, people nationwide have paid attention to one in particular. It states that in kindergarten through third grade, speaking about sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited in classroom instruction. If these topics are discussed, parents could sue the schools. 

The bill has sparked national outrage, with critics calling the bill “homophobic” and an “attack” on the LGBTQ+ community. President Joe Biden and his administration have responded, deeming the bill “hateful” and stating that it could lead to more bullying and suicides. They also virtually met with LGBTQ+ students and their families in Florida, who discussed their concerns and offered ways to support the Florida LGBTQ+ community. 

Biden and his administration haven’t been the only ones to respond. Disney originally remained quiet about the bill, but after facing pressure from the public, CEO Bob Chapek apologized for his silence and declared his support for LGBTQ+ advocacy groups. Many people are frustrated and upset over Chapek’s delayed response, so much so that Disney employees have taken the matter into their own hands. They staged many walkouts over a week to protest the bill. 

Since March 15th, Disney employees have walked out everyday during their fifteen minute breaks, demanding action be taken against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. On March 22nd, the employees staged a walkout that lasted from 8am to 6pm. They marched out of Disney’s headquarters Tuesday morning, demanding Disney stop making donations to select Florida politicians as well as protect its LGBTQ+ employees. ESPN has signaled its support for the walkouts, with a few employees even participating in them. 

Disney employees aren’t the only ones staging walkouts. A large walkout took place on Monday, March 7 at the Winter Park High School in Orange County, Florida to once again protest the bill. 11th grade students, Will Larkins and Maddi Zornek, organized the event. Larkins stated that “The people are the ones in power and what they’re [representatives and senators] doing doesn’t represent us, especially marginalized groups.” There were many more high school protests, including some in Tampa Bay and Central Florida.  

As of now, Governor DeSantis hasn’t signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. However, states such as Tennessee, Georgia, and Oklahoma are considering their own renditions of it.