Respect Equality

Chasten Buttigeig knocks proposed Florida bill banning most school discussions of sexuality, gender identity

Story at a glance

  • Chasten Buttigeig has again fired back at a bill passed by a Florida House committee last week that would bar teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity with their students.
  • Buttigeig on Tuesday cited a Trevor Project survey in which 42 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
  • Buttigeig argued that the Florida bill has little to do with actual parents’ rights and is instead another attempt to erase LGBTQ+ history, culture and people.

Chasten Buttigeig Tuesday morning again condemned a bill recently passed by a Florida House committee that would ban discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.

“What kind of state are you building where you’re essentially pushing kids back into the closet?” Buttigeig, the husband of transportation secretary Pete Buttigeig, said Tuesday during an interview with CNN’s John Berman.

Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed in the House Education and Employment Committee late last week largely along party lines.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Joe Harding (R), would bar educators in Florida from talking about LGBTQ+ topics that are not considered “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” A nearly identical bill was introduced early last week in the state Senate.


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Buttigeig on Tuesday doubled down on earlier comments that the bill “will kill kids,” referencing a report from the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group, which found 42 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered taking their own life at some point in the past year.

“As a kid who grew up for 18 years being told ‘you don’t belong, something about you is wrong,’ sometimes you take that trauma to heart and unfortunately there are a lot of kids in this country who do the worst because we tell them something about you is twisted and you don’t belong here,” Buttigeig said Tuesday.

Another Trevor Project survey recently found that LGBTQ+ youth who learned about LGBTQ+ people or issues in school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt over the last year.

Buttigeig said he feared for his life growing up as a closeted gay person in his conservative Northern Michigan neighborhood, which he said was politically similar to some parts of Florida.

“You were just a good Christian country boy, and that’s all you could be. There was no differentiating from the norm,” he said. “I grew up learning about Matthew Shepard and thought for sure that something like that could have happened to me if someone found out that I was different.”

Buttigeig argued that Harding’s bill has little to do with parents’ rights, and is instead a thinly veiled attempt to censure and erase LGBTQ+ history, culture, and people.

“I don’t really think this is about parents’ rights. Parents’ rights to do what? To tell LGBTQ kids that they don’t belong? To push LGBTQ families away and into the closet? I mean, hypothetically, if we’re having a bake sale on Friday, would my husband and I not be welcome at the school because we’re in a same sex relationship?,” he asked.

“This will hurt families and this isn’t about education or parents’ rights. I think it’s about using the LGBTQ community as a scapegoat, which we’ve been used as multiple times throughout history, and I just don’t agree with it,” he said.


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