Why we see Florida’s Parental Rights in Education/“Don’t Say Gay” bill so differently

March 23, 2022
Photo: Irfan Khan - Getty Images

~ 8 minutes read

The Florida Senate passed the Parental Rights in Education Bill, referred to by some as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, on March 8th. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has voiced support for the bill and is expected to sign it “relatively soon.”

The bottom lineViews and coverage of the bill vary because we have different beliefs around what constitutes appropriate classroom conversation for young students. We continue to talk about this bill differently because of distinct coverage by different news sources that confirm our point of view, whichever it is. 

Below, we break down how different people are interpreting this bill, and what values or information inform this perspective. Our goal isn’t to change your mind — it’s to show how rational people can understand this same event so differently. Your view may differ, and that’s okay.

What does the bill entail?

One reason we see this bill differently is that each side is discussing the content of the bill in different ways. Consider how your view of the bill might (or might not) change if you only heard one side’s description of the bill.

To the opposition, this bill…

  • Prohibits conversations about sexual orientation. 
  • Restricts teachers from supporting LGBTQ+ students.
  • Lacks clear guidelines around what “age appropriate” conversation means, so it’s ripe for abuse by homophobic parents.
  • Used to include an amendment requiring teachers to inform a student’s parents if the student came out to the teacher.

To supporters, this bill…

  • Stops schools from providing sex education to young students who aren’t ready for it.
  • Prohibits age-inappropriate conversations about sexuality and gender identity.
  • Applies only to grades K-3.
  • Applies only to planned curriculum, not spontaneous conversations.
  • Gives parents the right to hold schools accountable for age-inappropriate instruction or indoctrination.

Why do we see this bill differently?

Because of the inherent complexity of legal language, we rely on our previous experiences and values as well as coverage by news sources we trust to understand what this bill is about. This combination leads us to interpret the intentions and impact of this bill differently.

Here are a few examples of beliefs guiding the thinking on either side of the issue: 

Those who oppose the bill

Believe LGBTQ+ rights are under attack across the country. Because of this, LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk of mental illness and need to be protected and supported. 

Talking about the LGBTQ+ community is appropriate for any age, and restricting conversations about it signals to kids that being LGBTQ+ is wrong. Conflating ideas about sexual orientation and gender identity with explicit conversations about sex relies on the bigoted idea that members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be sex offenders or pedophiles.

Those who support the bill

Believe progressive ideas are dominating public education. Instead, parents should be the ones in charge of their children’s education — especially when it comes to determining what topics their children are ready for.

Believe sex is a mature topic, and that sex is ingrained throughout conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity. Kids need to be protected from age-inappropriate conversations so they can develop properly and enjoy childhood.

Our view of the other side’s position

To those who oppose the bill, supporters of the bill are equating   conversations about LGBTQ+ topics with  explicit, sexual content based on the backwards idea that queerness is morally wrong and LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to be sexual predators. Such views are misguided and damage the self-image of LGBTQ+ youth and should not be amplified through government policy.

To those who support the bill, opponents of the bill exaggerate the potential harms to LGBTQ+ students, and deliberately conflate good faith efforts to protect young children from overtly sexual concepts with censoring conversations about LGBTQ+ topics. This allows for harmful content, that has no place in public schools, to be taught to young, impressionable children.

Because our values and beliefs impact how we perceive new stories relating to LGBTQ+ and sex education, we reach different conclusions about what the right course of action is. Although it can be hard to understand how someone can reach such a different conclusion, it’s important to remember that our contra partisans don’t form their opinions on a whim. Just as we do, they use an internally consistent process, informed by the values and beliefs they hold dear, to reach their conclusion.

When it comes to emotional topics, it’s especially helpful to listen to how the other side describes themselves and their motivations, because their view often differs from the image of the enemy we’ve built up in our heads. Listening to them doesn’t mean conceding the argument, but it does mean taking them seriously and listening to their concerns in good faith.

Further reading

The full text of the bill can be downloaded here.


What do you think? Do you agree with one side, or do you fall somewhere in between? Give us feedback on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, or by emailing info@narrativesproject.com.