As Florida 'Don't Say Gay' bill goes to DeSantis, we need 'Don't Say Florida' legislation

Without a 'Don't Say Florida' bill, kids could be influenced into becoming Sunshine-State curious or, worse, questioning their geographic identity.

Rex Huppke

Folks, it’s time we stop our children from learning about Florida in public schools.

On Tuesday, the Florida Senate passed the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which restricts discussion of sexuality and gender identity in classrooms. The legislation now goes to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law, highlighting once again that Florida is an inappropriate topic for young children. 

The bill states that classroom instruction “on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

The “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate” is doing a lot of work in that sentence, and people in Florida and across the country have protested the chilling effect the legislation is likely to have on LGBTQ students at all grade levels who don’t want their existence treated like a problem that needs solving.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

On Monday, DeSantis said of the bill: “We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum.”

Time for a 'Don't Say Florida' bill

The idea of treating another human’s identity as “this stuff” is one of the main reasons I’m proposing federal legislation that will prohibit discussion of Florida in all grade levels nationwide. I call it the “Don’t Say Florida” bill, and I hope you’ll join me in this righteous crusade. (I am, in fact, a native Floridian, but any suggestion this crusade is motivated by self-loathing is an outrageous lie.)

We don’t need our tax dollars going to teachers who are injecting this stuff – i.e., the fact that Florida exists – into school curriculum.

The existence of Florida is something parents are best suited to explain and discuss with their children. If those discussions occur in a class setting, kids could be wrongly influenced into becoming Sunshine-State-curious or, worse yet, questioning their own geographic identity.

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Imagine if your child came home from school one day and said this: “We just learned about this state called Florida, where they passed a bill to keep teachers from talking to young students about gender identity, and a Republican sponsoring the bill, Sen. Dennis Baxley, was asked during debate to define ‘sexual orientation’ and he said, ‘Sexual orientation to me is male and female,’ which makes no sense. What is this strange land, and why have you never talked to me about it? I’m confused.”

No parent wants to be faced with a situation like that, which is why the legislation I’m proposing is so crucial. If teachers are allowed to openly discuss Florida, children might start to think it’s real and not just a lifestyle choice.

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Groups opposing Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill include the American Medical Association, the Florida Parent Teacher Association and the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, and students across Florida have been holding walkouts in protest and letting their voices be heard at the state capitol. 

Grooming kids to become Floridians?

Just last week, DeSantis’ spokeswoman Christina Pushaw suggested on Twitter that anyone opposed to what’s officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill is likely a pedophile.

“The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill,” Pushaw tweeted. “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.”

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The profoundly despicable nature of that comment and its strong undercurrent of bigotry should be red flags to parents across the country. That's where the modest legislation I'm proposing comes in. Clearly, discussions of Florida should not occur in kindergarten through grade three, or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.

And anyone who opposes “Don’t Say Florida” is probably grooming children to become Floridians. That’s how it works, I don’t make the rules.

Culture war on LGBTQ community

Democratic Florida Sen. Randolph Bracy said Republicans supporting the bill are waging a “culture war against the LGBTQ community.”

“Is it worth it if one child is affected by this legislation?” Bracyasked. “Is it worth a child being outed or bullied or potentially becoming suicidal?”

Following the Tuesday vote in which only two Senate Republicans opposed the bill, it’s clear the answer from most Florida GOP lawmakers is a resounding “Yes!” 

Which is why we must enact the “Don’t Say Florida” bill before more children are forced to confront the reality of a state that is wholly unwilling to confront reality.

Let’s teach kids that Georgia is the southeastern-most corner of the United States. Our students are just not ready to know the truth. 

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook: facebook.com/RexIsAJerk/