Florida House bill could impact LGBTQ+ youth, critics calling it dangerous

Bill prohibits discussion about sexual orientation in the classroom

A bill causing angst in the LGBTQ+ community is making its way through the Florida statehouse. It is called the Parent Rights in Education bill but it is dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Harding.

“A school district 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,” the bill states.

Parents can sue the district for violations.

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Some parents are saying the language in the proposal is dangerous. Marnie Bialosuknia is the mother of Evan Bialosuknia, who made history as the first transgender homecoming queen in Orlando. She won the crown at Olympia High School in September.

“You want your (children) to be accepted, you want them to be in an environment where they can feel like they can talk about their life,” Marnie Bialosuknia said.

Marnie is concerned the safe place for her daughter at school could change if the bill is passed.

“This bill is just devastating to the LGBTQ community; we are just going backward instead of forward,” she said.

Evan Bialosuknia also fears this will impact tons of teenagers who are not able to open up about their sexual orientation at home.

“Knowing what this bill can do to the community is very scary,” Evan Bialosuknia said.

The Zebra Coalition is an organization that supports LGBTQ youth.

A representative sent the following statement:

“This bill’s vague provisions would have a chilling effect on support for LGBTQ youth because it creates broad and costly new liabilities for school districts. I am very concerned about the negative impacts this will have on the mental health of LGBTQ youth who are already at a disproportionately high risk of suicidal ideation. This bill will essentially prevent teachers from creating inclusive, safe, and supportive classrooms.”

The Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reports 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of the transgender and non-binary youth.

News 6 reporter Treasure Roberts reached out to Rep. Harding seeking clarity about the bill’s language.

The representative declined to interview. He said the use of the title “Don’t Say Gay” when referring to his bill is offensive, adding he has a close relative and friend that is gay.

“The whole bill is insulting. I don’t know how anybody who has a quote-unquote close relative or friend who is part of the LGBTQ community could ever propose the bill,” Marnie Bialosuknia said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been pushing for parental rights in education. He endorsed the bill on Monday.

“We’ve seen instances of students being told by different folks in school, oh you know 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,” he said.

While many people have lingering questions about what the bill prohibits, Evan just has one question for lawmakers.

“You don’t live through it you know, like why are you making our lives harder?” she asked.

The house bill is now in the judiciary committee. Its companion bill (SB1834) in the Senate will be voted on in the education committee on Tuesday.

About the Author:

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.