Respect Equality

Florida state Senator apologizes for anti-LGBTQ+ comments made during ‘Don’t Say Gay’ debate

(Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press)

Story at a glance

  • Florida state Sen. Ileana Garcia (R) has apologized after she suggested earlier this month that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not permanent.
  • Garcia voted for the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill earlier this month. It now heads to the governor’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law.
  • Garcia in her apology also said she had received threats following her comments on the Senate floor and said her words were being used to advance a partisan agenda.

Florida state Sen. Ileana Garcia (R) has apologized after claiming on the Senate floor earlier this month that being gay is “not a permanent thing.”

Just before the state Senate passed the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, which its critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Garcia argued that sexual orientation and gender identity are temporary and should not be taught to young children.

“Gay is not a permanent thing. LGBT is not a permanent thing, and it’s not a bad thing,” she said. Garcia followed that statement with a story about a personal friend who is transgender, who she repeatedly misgendered.

On Thursday, Garcia posted a statement to her recently-reactivated Twitter account, apologizing to “anyone” she offended while debating the bill.


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“As a Senator, and more importantly, as a life-long member of this community, I fully understand the responsibility and impact of words on others,” she wrote. “My comments were in no way intended to generalize or disregard the experiences of any member of the LGBTQ+ community. I was trying to explain my very personal life experiences and did not properly articulate my sentiments.”

Garcia then reaffirmed her support for the bill, which would prevent classroom instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s primary schools. Public school teachers of all grade levels would also be barred from discussing those topics in a manner that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for their students.

“I do not believe that our school system should instruct children in Kindergarten – 3rd grade about sexual identity or sexual orientation. I strongly believe it’s a discussion that should be at the discretion of the parent,” Garcia wrote Thursday. “My failed attempt to convey the complexity and nuances of this matter in no way diminish the fact that the Parental Rights legislation is first and foremost about allowing children to be children and giving parents the right to guide their childhood.”

Garcia added that she believes some will use her words to “advance a partisan agenda or a false narrative,” and suggested that she had received threats of physical harm following her comments on the Senate floor.

“It’s to be expected,” she wrote.

LGBTQ+ advocates were less than impressed with Garcia’s apology, noting that the state senator had disabled commenting on her post.

“After declaring on the floor of the FL Senate that ‘LGBT is not permanent’, Sen. Garcia reinstated her account to sidestep an apology before complaining her words are being ‘used to advance an agenda’. Then turned off replies to avoid having to hear how her non-apology landed,” Brandon Wolf of Equality Florida wrote on Twitter.


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