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pete buttigieg, chasten buttigieg, don't say gay bill

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Republican lawmakers in Florida are pushing a bill that would restrict how teachers are allowed to discuss gender and sexuality in kindergarten through fifth grades. Officially known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, it has been dubbed the “Don't Say Gay” bill by its opponents.

The bill recently passed a Florida House committee vote and cleared the state's Senate Education Committee this week.

Under the House bill, Florida school districts "may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students."

It could also encourage parents to sue schools if they feel that gender or sexuality has been discussed inappropriately.

The bill’s vague warning doesn’t define what "age-appropriate" and "developmentally appropriate” mean, leading some to believe it would shut down discussion of those matters altogether. If passed, teachers would be rightfully scared to broach the topics for fear of bringing a lawsuit upon their district.


Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis hasn’t specifically said if he’d sign the bill but has signaled his support. "We've seen instances of students being told by different folks in school, 'Oh, don't worry, don't pick your gender yet, do all this other stuff.' They won't tell the parents about these discussions that are happening. That is entirely inappropriate," DeSantis said.

"The larger issue with all of this is parents must have a seat at the table when it comes to what's going on in their schools," he added.

Obviously, children should be taught about gender sexuality in ways that are age-appropriate, but that should be across the board, regardless of whether someone is gay, straight, nonbinary or transgender.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay official to lead a department within the federal government, gave a clear and level-headed explanation on CNN on why the bill is so dangerous to the LGBTQ community.

Buttigieg said the bill was “absolutely” dangerous. “And the reason is that it tells youth who are different or whose families are different that there's something wrong with them out of the gate,” Buttigieg told CNN. “And I do think that contributes to the shocking levels of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth.”

In a tweet, Buttigieg's husband, Chasten, referenced a Trevor Project survey that found alarming rates of suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ youth.

In the CNN interview, Buttigieg used an example from his own life to show how the bill would hurt LGBT families. He and his husband recently adopted twins.

“Chasten, my husband, pointed out that, you know, if our kids someday, some Monday morning come into class and you know, kids are sitting around, the teacher's got the morning circle talking about how everybody's weekends went, and one of them says, ‘I had the best weekend with my dads’,” Buttigieg explained.

“Is a teacher supposed to say, ‘No, we don't talk about that here’? You know, if it's at any age where it's appropriate to talk about, you know, a kid's mom and dad, then it should be appropriate to talk about a kid's mom and mom, or dad and dad—or whatever family structures we live with," he added. “That's part of what it means to be pro-family, is to be pro-every family.”

The Buttigiegs are right. You can’t just make laws that ban people from talking about their everyday lives. LGBTQ people are everywhere and are important parts of the lives of the children in our schools, whether they are teachers, parents or family members. It’s not only bigoted but just plain ridiculous to try to erase them from our communities.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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