Story at a glance
- Equality Florida, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, this week launched the first of two television ads condemning a number of bills in Florida which seek to limit discussions of gender identity, sexual orientation and race in schools and workplaces.
- The 30-second ad renders a dystopian future where students and educators are punished for talking about about same-sex relationships.
- A second ad will air on Wednesday, Equality Florida said.
An LGBTQ+ rights group in Florida this week launched a television ad condemning a handful of bills moving through the state legislature which aim to restrict certain discussions about gender identity, sexual orientation, and, in some cases, race, from classrooms and workplaces.
In the 30-second ad released by Equality Florida on Monday, an alarm bell rings and red lights darken a classroom after a young girl begins a presentation about her two mothers. When her teacher encourages her to keep going, the teacher is called to the school’s front office to be reprimanded.
The ad pushes back against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill — dubbed by its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — which was passed by a state House committee in January and a state Senate committee earlier this month.
Under the bill, Florida educators would be prohibited from addressing LGBTQ+ topics that are not considered “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” in their classrooms. Parents would also have greater authority to take legal action against school districts if they believe the district to be in violation.
Equality Florida on Monday said the bill is being used by conservative leaders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to build political power by “targeting and demonizing LGBTQ people.”
“Governor DeSantis is pushing legislation to curb free speech, propagandize school curriculums, and monitor classroom conversations, private workplaces, and doctor’s offices — all in order to outflank Donald Trump to the right and build an onramp to run for President in 2024,” Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, said in a statement.
DeSantis last week signaled support for the bill, but did not say whether he would sign it if it reached his desk.
A second Equality Florida ad will air on Wednesday, the group said, and will advocate against the Stop WOKE Act, where woke is used as an acronym for “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees.”
Under that bill, also known as the Individual Freedom bill, public school educators and employers would face legal liability for lessons or trainings about gender identity and race that make people feel “discomfort” or could be viewed as “discriminatory.”
The definition of discrimination under the bill is broadened to include anything that makes another person feel uncomfortable over historic actions by their race, nationality or gender.
It’s likely a nod to critical race theory, which the Florida Department of Education in June banned from public school classrooms, grouping it in the same category as Holocaust denial and other “theories that distort historical events.”
The Individual Freedom bill would also give adults greater authority to challenge books or lessons that cause “discomfort,” including lessons about the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement and the Holocaust.
“While the governor and GOP leadership invokes ‘parental rights’ as justification for censorship and surveillance, the bills Republican leadership is pushing actually diminish the rights of parents,” Smith said on Monday. “For example, anyone, even someone who doesn’t have a child in schools, is able to object to library books and instructional materials and deny access to every student as a result.”
“As a parent of a 10 year-old, these bills fail to protect my child and our family. It is a tool for the state to censor and that encourages lawsuits against schools as a means of intimidation,” she added.
The bills’ proponents argue that they would promote equality in schools and workplaces by discouraging “stereotyping” or discrimination based on characteristics or traits beyond an individual’s control.
“I would suggest that activist groups read the bills in full before spreading misinformation about them,” Gov. DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told Changing America when asked to comment on Equality Florida’s ad campaign.
Pushaw said most Americans would agree that the pillars of critical race theory, which addresses systemic racism in the U.S., and diversity and inclusion trainings “are overtly discriminatory and bigoted, because they encourage people to stereotype and discriminate against one another based on immutable characteristics.”
“How can anyone seriously argue in favor of treating people differently based on skin color?” she said.
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