Bill sponsor Republican state Rep. Joe Harding, for example, is a great place to start. Harding is obsessed with the idea that parents should be able to control every aspect of a child’s education without any context for diversity. Of course, this approach appeals to a certain kind of parent. White, conservative, cisgender, straight … You get the idea.
In a recent interview on ABC News' podcast Start Here, Harding defended the bill, which he introduced. He claimed the bill would not prohibit people from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms, as the bill once stated, but that it would ban curricula and lessons on it.
"What we're preventing is a school district deciding they're going to create a curriculum to insert themselves," Harding told ABC News during an interview, adding that he wants to “let families be families.”
“The school district doesn't need to insert themselves at that point when children are still learning how to read and do basic math,” he continued. LGBTQ+ people are not “inserting” themselves by simply existing. There is nothing inappropriate or deviant about a teacher referencing a same-sex partner, for example, or reading a children’s book that features a trans protagonist.
Luckily, Democrats stepped up and tried their best to reason with Republicans.
“This is a direct attack on the Florida’s LGTBQ community,” Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book said during the debate on Tuesday. “And that is not okay.”
Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones also spoke during the debate, sharing how difficult it was for him to come out as gay to his father, who is a pastor in Florida. Jones, who is the first openly gay person in Florida’s Senate, was moved to tears while sharing his experience.
“It just seems like in politics today,” Jones said. “We have gone down a road where we are scared to just step up and make sure we are not hurting people.”
One of the most poignant zingers from the debates came from Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer, who directed his words at Christina Pushaw, who serves as press secretary for DeSantis.
“The governor’s communications director accused us of being pedophiles for being again this bill,” Farmer said. “Boy, oh boy, I got news for you: You can’t teach gay and you sure can’t pray away gay.”
As Daily Kos covered at the time, Pushaw recently fired off hateful tweets in support of the bill, saying it should really be called an “anti-grooming” bill. Pushaw wrote: “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.”
Her statement is inflammatory, of course. It also relies on archaic ideas about LGBTQ+ people being innately predatory and that queer people are dangerous and don’t belong around children. It’s hateful, hurtful, and filled to the brim with inaccuracy. Pushaw faces calls to resign, but of course, she probably won’t.
We can’t rely on Republicans to come around and do the right thing. We need to focus on ending voter suppression, mobilizing folks, and educating as much as we can. Republican leaders don’t represent most of this country, and even if they do, it’s an issue of education (and, frankly, empathy), not something set in stone.
Here are some clips from the Senate floor.
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