Happy New Year everybody! Except for people who made it their life’s goal to attack LGBTQ+ people. I hope your New Year sucks.
2022 was much better than the two years before it (I know, it’s a low bar).
We saw some historic wins by LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2022 midterm elections, including the election of the nation’s first openly lesbian governors, Tina Kotek in Oregon and Maura Healey in Massachusetts. WNBA player Brittney Griner was sprung from prison in Russia, high profile anti-LGBTQ+ candidates like Dr. Oz here in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia and Kari Lake in Arizona lost their elections, and a bill to protect marriage equality for LGBTQ+ people and interracial couples passed the U.S. House and Senate and was signed by President Joe Biden.
Still, many things were not great!
Queer icon and perpetual bright spot in this dark world Leslie Jordan died. 2022 saw the repeal of Roe v. Wade and a very clear signal from the ultra-right Supreme Court that they can’t wait to get rid of marriage equality, too (hence the need for the above-mentioned Respect for Marriage Act). There was also the horrific shooting at Club Q in Colorado, and widespread protests against drag queens.
And then there was Florida, where old people go to live out their golden years by clawing back all the progressive wins they’ve seen in their lifetimes.
In 2022 Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed faster than a hurricane and was championed by Governor Ron DeSantis, an out and proud homophobe and transphobe who wants to become our next U.S. President. While the bill’s stated objective is to keep schools from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity from Kindergarten through third grade, the bill has had wider reaching effects. It’s clear that the intent of the law was to enshrine the idea that LGBTQ+ people are a threat to children under the guise of an education law.
Well, attorneys general across the country aren’t having it. Among other problems, “the law does not define many of its key terms, like ‘classroom instruction,’ so Florida teachers are already censoring themselves out of fear of the law. Indeed, the law allows a parent to bring a civil claim against a school district to enforce its vague prohibitions,” reads a press release from D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine.
You read that right. Parents in Florida can sue if they think the teachers in their school are’t anti-LGBTQ+ enough.
Racine and 17 other AGs have submitted an amicus supporting a lawsuit brought by several Florida families opposing the Parental Rights in Education Act. He’s joined by the AGs in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.
“Florida’s law is unconstitutional,” the brief argues according to Racine’s office. “The law is causing significant harms to students, parents, teachers, and other states. Non-inclusive educational environments have severe negative health impacts on LGBTQ+ students, resulting in increased rates of mental health disorders and suicide attempts. These harms extend to youth not just in Florida, but throughout the country.”
It’s true. Over a dozen other states, including Pennsylvania, have proposed bills “inspired” by Florida’s.
The Venn diagram of people who are anti-LGBTQ+ and people who are racist has two overlapping circles.
As Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s Legal Director David Brown tells NPR, “What is truly concerning is that these anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been coupled with legislative proposals that forbid teaching about structural racism and slavery, and patriarchy and sexism, on the grounds that these concepts make others uncomfortable.”
But making LGBTQ+ people uncomfortable? That’s OK. That’s the point. Legally dehumanizing people is a green light for violence against them. We saw that play out at Club Q and at drag queen events that drew armed protesters.
“The institutionalization of these bills is an overt form of structural transphobia and homophobia, and it goes against all public health evidence in creating a safe and supportive environment for transgender, nonbinary, queer, gay and lesbian youths and teachers to thrive,” Arjee Restar, a University of Washington professor of epidemiology told NPR.
Of course, that’s exactly the point. Supporters of this kind of legislation don’t want a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ people. They want us back in the shadows, timid and weak. But the closet door has been smashed open. We refuse to go back.