Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people. Credit: Wilfredo Lee / AP

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Fabiola Santiago is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

They don’t know, dastards who rule the diverse state of Florida from the hills of Tallahassee, the pain and suffering gay children endure staying in the closet and not being accepted for who they are by society.

Or, maybe they do, and they’re just plain evil and taking shelter behind their so-called Christian facade.

Who else can vote for a bill — dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” for good reason — that hurts children, gay and otherwise, by fomenting a culture of silence in schools?

The bill, sold as parental rights in education legislation, passed Tuesday in the Florida Senate over a maelstrom of protests from students, after clearing the House along partisan lines on Feb. 8.

It will now go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature, which is pretty much guaranteed, as the governor is the chief creator and enabler of the fascist atmosphere in the state that has given homophobic Floridians such as bill sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala the wings to successfully operate.

The same goes for uninformed younger Republicans like Sen. Ileana Garcia — who represents a big chunk of Miami Beach, one of the largest LGBTQ communities in Florida, and who only won her seat by a few votes in an election that included a candidate planted by a Republican operative.

Among the empty-headed things she said during a rant on the Senate floor: “Gay is not a permanent thing.”

She also mocked a transgender friend for wanting to become a woman. “Why do you want to deal with the hormones? Why do you want to have to worry about the extensions and the hair, and the boobs, and the nails?”

She’s up for reelection. Let’s see if her support for this bill costs her what it should — her seat.

Shame on Republican Florida legislators for having absolutely no backbone and ramming through all kinds of unnecessary and ruinous bills this session — the most egregious of which gratuitously aids and abets hate and rejection of Florida’s gay children by banning any discussion of sexual orientation in schools from kindergarten through third grade, when medical experts say children are forming their identity.

For some of these children, especially those who come from unenlightened homes and/or parents who have communications issues, schools are the only safe setting they know.

This bill’s passage is nothing short of a slap to all of the gay community, which is quite a voting bloc and includes members of Florida’s legislative body. And it’s a community that has plenty of allies.

Polling shows that the majority of Floridians don’t support this hateful legislation targeting LGBTQ+ youth. A University of North Florida survey found that 57 percent of respondents “either strongly or somewhat” opposed the bill.

Still, the GOP went ahead and persevered, catering to the 34 percent with sexual identity insecurities and so much right-wing disinformation on their plate that they can’t see the making of a nasty America that may never get along.

This passage is a huge civil-rights setback in Florida.

“We are incredibly saddened by this moment but promise to fight the bill however possible,” the advocacy organization Safe Schools South Florida said in a statement. “Thank you to our youth for their bravery.”


The children and adults in this group led the way, mounting local rallies they took all the way to the Florida Capitol.

There’s much work ahead to be done in Florida, including challenging the legality of what would be this gag law in court.

For one, it targets a protected class of people.

“A prima facie case… of invidious discrimination,” charged Miami-Dade Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, an attorney.

May the legislators’ attempt to quash conversations about sexuality unleash a stronger civil-rights movement in a state that had overcome its dark history on gay issues.

But, for now, the important thing is to let our kids know that they’re free to be who they want to be, despite politicians who cater to a ridiculously antiquated base of insecure people.

Say “gay” as loud as you want, Florida kids! No matter what you hear, be beautiful you.