Florida Senate’s passing of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is “bigoted and misguided,” UNF LGBTQ Center director says

Carter Mudgett, Editor in Chief

The Florida Senate has passed, what critics have nicknamed, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in a 22-17 vote Tuesday as it heads to Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk for his signature.

Officially titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, it aims to ban Florida school districts from encouraging discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill has been the recipient of strong pushback by critics across the country with many college and high school students participating in walkouts last week to protest such legislation. 

“I am deeply saddened that such a bigoted and misguided bill has passed and is headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature,” University of North Florida LGBTQ Center Director Manny Velásquez — who has discussed his opposition for the bill in the past — wrote to Spinnaker. “We are hurting. This is a despicable piece of legislation created only to stigmatize LGBTQ+ people and it has the potential to attack our first amendment rights to freedom of speech.”

Referencing a study conducted by the Trevor Project, Velásquez wrote how “the suicide rates go up” each time new anti-LGBTQ legislation passes. 

The LGBTQ+ community will push back, Velásquez said in a statement, “we are already seeing conferences rethinking and moving out of Florida, this is going to hurt [Florida’s] economy.”

“I hope that LGBTQ+ people in Florida know that you matter,” Velásquez wrote, “you are seen, you are heard, you are loved.”

Allison Bradish holds up a sign at a protest speaking out against anti-LGBTQ legislation on March 2, 2022, on the UNF Green.
Allison Bradish holds up a sign at a protest speaking out against anti-LGBTQ legislation on March 2, 2022, on the UNF Green. (Justin Nedrow)

Florida LGBTQ Democratic Caucus President Stephen Gaskill issued the following statement in a press release after the vote:

“The Florida Senate joined the Florida House in passing the hateful Don’t Say Gay bill aimed at erasing LGBTQ+ children, educators, and families from schools. It is abundantly clear from the debate that proponents of the bill — even the bill’s sponsor — were unclear on the specifics of the legislation. But while they were unconcerned about the impact on students, they were united in their goal of enacting this unnecessary and harmful bill. The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus, our partner organizations, and our allies remain firm in continuing to fight for our LGBTQ+ youth. We urge Governor DeSantis to end the virtue signaling of his reelection campaign and veto this bill.”

If the bill is signed by DeSantis, it will go into effect on July 1.


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