*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm
Florida Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat who is the first openly LGBTQ+ Latino lawmaker to serve in the state legislature, appeared visibly upset as he spoke out against a bill that would ban discussions about sexual orientation and gender in classrooms.
Florida’s Republican sponsored Parental Rights in Education bill, or H.B. 1557, was passed in the House Education and Employment Committee late last month. The bill, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, aims to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.”
The bill wants to prohibit “a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner” and authorizes parents to “bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates certain provisions of law.”
You can hear what Smith said about the GOP sponsored bill in the video below.
Speaking while the chamber debated the legislation, Smith made an impassioned plea for his own humanity as well as the humanity of other LGBTQ people, asking:
"What topics specifically about people like myself, LGBTQ Floridians, are not appropriate to teach in the classroom? What part of conversations about people like myself are not age appropriate?”
After being scolded by Chris Sprowles, the Republican House Speaker, for asking questions "in ways that are personal to other members," Smith replied:
“I’m going to try my very best to comply, to not make my questions personal, but the bill is deeply personal and I’m trying my very best, Mr. Speaker."
Smith's opposition to the bill inspired observers who've criticized the bill's Republican backers.
They praised him for speaking out against legislation that LGBTQ+ advocates and many of his fellow Democrats said would only harm children.
The bill's sponsor, Republican state Representative Joe Harding previously claimed the bill is “designed to keep school districts from talking about these topics before kids are ready to process them.”
However, his justifications have only further galvanized activists.
Last month, educator and activist Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, said the "Don't Say Gay" bill isn’t about “parental rights” at all but about discrimination and control. Chasten Buttigieg acknowledged LGBTQ+ people and their families have often been used as scapegoats throughout history and said the legislation would "push LGBTQ families away and into the closet."
Adding the bill would "kill kids," he went on to cite statistics from The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth.
Buttigieg noted suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24 and that 42 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
LGBTQ+ Youth can get help through:
- TrevorChat — 24/7/365 at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/#services
- TrevorLifeline — phone service available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386
- TrevorText — Text “START” to 678678. Available 24/7/365.
- TrevorSpace — online international peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their friends at https://www.trevorspace.org/
- Trevor Support Center — LGBTQ youth & allies can find answers to FAQs and explore resources at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-center/#sm.0000121hx9lvicotqs52mb1saenel