HOW IT STARTED:
This spring, when Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis was pushing the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, he got super-offended when people called it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Here’s a clip of DeSantis going all Hulk-SMASH on a reporter for noting what the bill’s critics call it, as DeSantis’s customary brace of flying monkeys clap on cue:
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) attacks a reporter who asks about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“People don’t trust people like you because you peddle false narratives,” DeSantis says before the room breaks into applause. pic.twitter.com/5dKa1p6dZr
— The Recount (@therecount) March 7, 2022
HOW IT’S GOING:
And here’s a report this week from Orlando’s local ABC affiliate about alarm in Orange County’s K-12 education community after public school principals met to discuss how to comply with the new law:
According to representatives of the county’s teacher association, teachers and staff members will be disallowed from wearing rainbow articles of clothing, including lanyards distributed by the district last year. Elementary-level teachers reported being discouraged from putting pictures of their same-sex spouse on their desk or talking about them to students.
“Safe Space” stickers aimed at LGBTQ students may have to be removed from doors, teachers will have to report to parents if a student “comes out” to them and they must use pronouns assigned at birth, regardless of what the parents allow, the CTA reported…
In a separate conversation, an OCPS official said the district needed to err on the side of caution until state officials provided more clarity. The strict interpretations, they said, were necessary to protect both students and teachers. The latter could have their teaching licenses revoked if they run afoul of the law, the official said.
Since DeSantis has appointed religious fanatics and QAnon nuts to the state’s education board, my guess is public school administrators will be waiting a very long time for “more clarity.”
My queer kid went to Florida public schools, and I remember finding a measure of comfort in the rainbow “safe space” stickers I spotted during parent-teacher conferences. It told me the school staff were aware LGBTQ kids were bullied and took it seriously enough to make a statement, even if they couldn’t shield kids from all abuse. It represented awareness and hinted at progress.
Hard-right Republican governors were in charge in Florida throughout my kid’s K-12 years — first Jeb Bush, then Rick Scott. But as awful as they and their administrations were (and my God they were awful, especially on education, which they transformed into a right-wing grift racket), as far as I know, no education authorities suggested scraping the rainbow “safe space” stickers off public school doors.
I’m sympathetic to the view that the modern Republican Party has always been terrible. I know it firsthand; Reagan was elected when I was in high school. Back then, gay kids were bullied with impunity, “Moral Majority” asshole preachers who hobnobbed with Republican politicians went on TV to tell us HIV/AIDS was their petty little god’s judgment on gay people, and the GOP president ignored a deadly pandemic because he didn’t give a shit about its victims. (Literary alert, kids: this is called foreshadowing!)
So, yeah, I’m aware modern Republicans were always awful; this latest crop of authoritarian thugs in ill-fitting suits is just a logical extension of their consistent putridity.
That said, the country moved forward in important ways over the past few decades, notably on LGBTQ rights, despite the progress-impeding millstone around our necks that is the Republican Party. We made progress on that front thanks in part to Democrats like Nancy Pelosi but thanks most of all to the courage of LGBTQ people who refused to accept second-class citizenship.
But now school administrators are scraping the “safe space” stickers off doors — if they’re talking about it in Orlando, I guaran-damn-tee you the putty knives are already out in rural counties. Now the highest court in the land, in announcing that women are second-class citizens, also hinted that gay people have no marriage equality rights this court is bound to respect.
Conclusion: today’s Republicans are worse that their forebearers. Shitbag governors like DeSantis and Abbott are in a race to the bottom to curry favor with religious fanatics, and they’re measuring the Oval Office drapes. And if we don’t stop them, they’ll drag us all straight down to hell with them. The end.