More than half of LGBTQ parents in Florida say they are considering leaving the state

More than half of LGBTQ parents in Florida say they are considering leaving the state

More than half of LGBTQ parents in Florida are considering moving their families to another state over concerns that a new Florida education law – known to its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law – stigmatizes LGBTQ identities and creates a hostile learning environment for LGBTQ children or students with LGBTQ family members.

In a report issued Tuesday by the Williams Institute, a public policy research institute based at the UCLA of Law, and Clark University in Massachusetts, 56 percent of LGBTQ parents surveyed said they were considering leaving Florida over concerns about how the new law might impact their children and families. Another 17 percent said they had already taken steps to do so.

“I am terrified that I would need to make the decision to leave Florida and leave my parents,” said one respondent. “The idea of ​​having to leave to protect my child and my partner is scary but one I am willing to do.”

The new law, officially titled the “Parental Rights in Education” law, bars public kindergarten through third grade teachers from engaging in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity – subjects the measure’s proponents in the state legislature last year argued are inappropriate for young students.

Educators through high school are barred from addressing either topic in the classroom in a manner that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for their students. Florida public school teachers who violate the law risk having their licenses suspended or revoked under a rule adopted by the state Board of Education in October.

LGBTQ parents in Florida surveyed by the Willams Institute between June and September said their initial response to the bill, introduced last January in the state House, ranged from fear to disbelief. Many were unconcerned about the measure at first because they believed it would not be signed into law or was unenforceable.

Over time, however, as the measure moved swiftly through the legislature, LGBTQ parents who were initially not worried became increasingly concerned. Some even considered removing their children from the public school system altogether, according to the Williams Institute survey.

LGBTQ parents surveyed by the group voiced a variety of concerns about the “Don’t Say Gay” law’s expected impact on their children, including that it would restrict them from speaking freely about their families, negatively impacting their sense of legitimacy and encouraging a hostile schoolclimate.

“Many are concerned that the bill will not only result in restricted or non-existent education about the existence of diverse sexual and gender identities, but it will result in a chilly or hostile school climate for LGBTQ educators, students, and families because it suggests that something is wrong with LGBTQ identities,” researcher Abbie E. Goldberg, a psychology professor at Clark University, wrote in the report.

LGBTQ parents with LGBTQ children said they were worried especially how the law would impact their child’s learning environment and mental well-being, and 13 percent said their children had expressed fears about continuing to live in Florida as an LGBTQ young person.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), seen as a top GOP contender for the 2024 presidential election, has spearheaded a statewide crusade against LGBTQ issues and identities over the last year, calling for physicians who provide gender-affirming medical care to transgender minors to be sued and accusing teachers and public school systems of indoctrinating vulnerable young people with “woke gender ideology.”

Earlier this month, as he was sworn in for his second term as governor, DeSantis touted his administration’s success in passing educational reforms including the “Parental Rights in Education” law and pledged to ensure Florida schools “are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology.”

“Florida must always be a great place to raise a family – we will enact more family-friendly policies to make it easier to raise children and we will defend our children against those who seek to rob them of their innocence,” DeSantis said.

But according to LGBTQ parents, Florida has become an increasingly hostile place to live.

Nearly a quarter of LGBTQ parents surveyed in the Williams Institute report said they feared being bullied by their neighbors because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, and more than 20 percent said they had been out less in their neighborhood, workplace or community over the past 3 to 6 months.

“The Don’t Say Gay bill claims to be for parent rights, but my rights have been taken away since its passage,” one respondent said. “My right to send my daughter to school freely, my right to live without fear of who I am, my right not to be discriminated against based on my sexual orientation, and my daughter to not be discriminated against based on her parents’ sexual orientation .”

For some LGBTQ parents, the passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law has motivated them to engage more directly in community activism; nearly 20 percent said they participated in a demonstration to protest the legislation over the past 6 months.

Others spoke to how their parenting and activism serves as a means of queer resistance and empowerment.

“We do our best to instill the right things in our children to help them grow to be kind collective members of society,” said one survey respondent. “As queer parents, we do this all in spite of a society that actively tries to silence us. But what they do not understand is that we also raise our children to scream above the silence and fight for the right to love and exist without persecution.”

— Updated 3:25 pm

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