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Students fight back against Florida’s ‘Don’t say gay bill’

By Jason Carles and Isabela Casanova |
April 21, 2022
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Over 40 students gathered to protest anti gay law in Tallahassee, FL
Over 40 students gathered to protest anti gay law in Tallahassee, FL (Fight Back! News/staff)

Tallahassee, FL - On Monday, April 18, Florida State University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a march against Florida’s repressive HB1557. Led by SDS officers Isabela Casanova and Chudi Oraedu, a group of roughly 40 students marched from FSU’s Legacy Fountain to the Integration Statue, chanting “Homophobia has got to go” and “Trans lives matter.”

Nicknamed the “Don’t say gay bill” by opponents, it was signed into state law on March 28. Parents are encouraged to sue their local school districts over what they consider to be violations of this law.

The law's homophobic and transphobic yet vague text leaves teachers with little to no room to discuss anything on the subject of sexuality and gender at any grade level without facing legal threats, while simultaneously preventing students from seeking the safety that many educators provide to discuss matters of sexuality and identity without fear of bigoted backlash.

SDS member Kasidy Brown stated during his speech: “These communities are already put at risk, and I think these bills like this enable people to cause harm to LGBTQ+ people. It allows people to commit harm against us, because they know that they will get away with it.” HB1557 has clearly been put into place to make public education a hostile and unsafe space for LGBTQ+ students, and an academically and socially restrictive space for teachers and school faculty.

This is just one attempt in a series of attacks from Republican legislators to dismantle public education. Shortly after the passage of HB1557, the state legislature also passed the “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act,” which bans conversations around race-based discrimination and other forms of oppression, both historical and current.

Additionally, in early April, universities across the state were forced to distribute the Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity survey to their students and employees, asking loaded questions about "[tolerance] … of both liberal and conservative beliefs" and whether instructors "inject [their] political … beliefs into [their] classes," serving as justification for future attempts to further restrict and control the public education system once its results are published later this year.

Despite the barrage of restrictive laws, students remain hopeful and empowered to fight against these injustices on a local level. As Noella Williams of FSU GenAction says, “Just because the bills passed doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do anymore - we can still fight in our local communities, we can still try and protect students that are in Leon County, that are in Florida schools.”

Students across the state have been banding together and holding protests in their respective schools and cities. Despite the DeSantis administration's best attempts, the LGBTQ community has refused to be silenced.

SDS was joined by multiple organizations, including the Florida State Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA), VEG FSU, FAMU Generation Action, the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), the Tallahassee Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), FSU Gender Odyssey and the FSU College Democrats.

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