A new report says that more than half of LGBTQ+ Florida parents surveyed say they’re considering moving out of the Sunshine State because of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill that has already impacted families since it was enacted last year.
The bill’s title is actually the Parental Rights in Education, but critics have long used ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and it has stuck.
The study of 113 LGBTQ+ parents was issued this week by the Williams Institute, a public policy research institute based at the UCLA School of Law, and Clark University in Massachusetts.
LGBTQ+ parents reported that their children had already experienced harassment and bullying at school and they also had fears about continuing to live in Florida.
In addition, almost one-quarter of parents surveyed feared harassment by neighbors because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The survey says that 56 percent of LGBTQ+ parents surveyed said that they are considering leaving Florida over concerns that the legislation may impact their children and family. Another 16 percent said that they have already taken steps to do so.
“I was in the process of buying an office and opening my own practice when the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passed,” one anonymous respondent is quoted in the report. “I decided to not move forward with the purchase. I have spent $20,000 dollars traveling to look (at) practices to purchase in LGBTQ+ friendly states, speaking to attorneys, applying for other state licenses, etc. We are giving up everything. Our lives and my career is here. We want to stay and fight, but I’m not sure it’s best for my children.”
Another survey participant is quoted as saying,” I am terrified that I would need to make the decision to leave Florida and leave my parents. The idea of having to leave to protect my child and my partner and I is scary but one I am willing to do. It is just another reminder that LGBTQ+ truly are not safe anywhere and we are unable to achieve true happiness. Very sad.”
Supporters of the law have maintained that it doesn’t directly target LGBTQ+ people, referring to the fact that the text never references the word “gay” or “transgender” and that certain conversations are best had at home.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law last May in Pasco County, where he highlighted materials that were inclusive of LGBTQ+ matters, repeatedly saying they were “not appropriate” for young kids. The Phoenix reported that included an enlarged printing of “The Genderbread Man,” an infographic designed to simplify concepts such as gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, and sexual orientation.
“This is trying to sew doubt in kids about their gender identity,” DeSantis said at the event. “It’s trying to say that, you know, they can be whatever they want to be. This is inappropriate for kindergarteners, for first graders, for second graders.”
The survey also reports that LGBTQ+ parents’ initial reactions to the bill ranged “from fear to anger to disbelief.” It also says that over time, even those who were initially relatively unconcerned (e.g., because they believed the bill would not be signed into law or was unenforceable) became increasingly worried. Some considered moving their children to private schools.
In a section of the report called “Communicating with Children,” Clark University professor of Psychology Abbie E. Goldberg writes:
“Those who did speak to their young children did not necessarily talk about the bill/law but rather emphasized messages centering on ‘being yourself’ and ‘being proud of who you are’ presumably to counteract the negative messaging they might directly or indirectly be exposed to. Said one, ‘Our daughter is young, but we have talked about her family and have many books reminding her that she has two dads. She has a rainbow flag she loves to wave and scream ‘happy pride’.” Said another participant, ‘Too young at 4 to explain bill. We do explain however that families come in many shapes and sizes and that love is what matters.’ A few acknowledged that they had not spoken to their children because they were avoiding it and/or did not want to upset them.”
Two lawsuits were filed in federal court after the law was passed, but both were dismissed by federal judges who questioned the legal standing of the plaintiffs. A revised version of one of those lawsuits was refiled in federal court in Orlando last October.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond for a request for comment.
–Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix