Last week, a Republican-backed bill passed Florida’s House of Representatives prohibiting teachers and school staff from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill targets kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. Backers argue that children of this cohort are unprepared to process topics that are not “age-appropriate.” Should Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, get a companion bill passed in the Florida Senate, it would open the door in July for parents to sue school districts that dare to bring up these topics.
Critics have denounced the bill as being anti-LGBTQ, saying that the ban, once imposed, could very easily extend to older children as well. President Joe Biden tweeted that the bill was “hateful” and pledged that his administration would fight to protect the LGBTQ community.
The message this bill sends to LGBTQ youth is undeniable: Something is inherently wrong with them. By supporting it, lawmakers exacerbate outright marginalization, anxiety, and depression for the youngest members of our community.
This episode is part of a broader debate playing out in other state capitols. Florida is a litmus test for pushing the same agenda elsewhere.
In the first week of 2022, at least seven states put forward laws that would limit the rights of transgender and nonbinary kids and their ability to participate in sports, use bathrooms, and receive gender-affirming care. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott instructed the state’s child welfare agency to investigate any gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender youth as “child abuse.” The Supreme Court will soon hear a case of a Colorado weddings web designer who claims her religious beliefs prevent her from offering services to gay couples, akin to the wedding cake case back in 2018.
The drumbeat of debate and proposed legislation against the LGBTQ community is turning into a wholesale — if not well-orchestrated — attack. It serves to drive a wedge in American politics ahead of the midterms and the next presidential election.
Pennsylvania remains one of 27 states with no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The Equality Act, passed last year by the House, addresses this head-on but remains stalled in the Senate.
“The drumbeat of debate and proposed legislation against the LGBTQ community is turning into a wholesale — if not well-orchestrated — attack.”
The fight for LGBTQ equality is ongoing. Yet more than ever, members of our community and our allies must remain vigilant to fast-moving political forces. In the face of these challenges, we must educate ourselves, inform others, and mobilize to push back against the assault on our basic right to live without fear or repercussion.
For the last five years, I have been a federal club member of the Human Rights Campaign. Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director for the organization, said that 2022 is “poised to become the year of the most anti-LGBTQ legislation” in the United States. I am proud that the HRC has voiced strong opposition to the stance in Florida, Texas, and elsewhere. There is much work to be done.
This spring, the Human Rights Campaign of Greater Philadelphia will lobby Sen. Pat Toomey and others to support the Equality Act. Our annual dinner will be held on Saturday at Loews Philadelphia Hotel. Additional opportunities to get involved and volunteer will be announced soon.
I encourage anyone who is interested in these issues to join us in supporting the rights of LGBTQ people of all ages. With the change of seasons, and ominous political clouds billowing by, it’s time for renewed commitment and action.
Jobert E. Abueva, a member of the Human Rights Campaign — Bucks County, is a writer and resident of New Hope.