Metro Weekly

Pete Buttigieg slams Florida’s harmful “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Buttigieg said the bill was "absolutely" dangerous and would contribute to "shocking levels of...suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth"

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg during a speaking event in January 2020 — Photo by Gage Skidmore

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg issued a sharp rebuke of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, highlighting the serious harm it could cause to LGBTQ youth.

The Republican-backed bill, which is working its way through Florida’s legislature, would ban discussions of LGBTQ issues “in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

Florida Republicans claim that the bill is a “parental rights” measure which will alert parents to topics that they might otherwise object to. However, Democrats have criticized the legislation, saying it will be interpreted and enforced by school districts in a way that effectively gags any discussion about LGBTQ-related topics, even in passing.

Appearing on CNN Newsroom last week, Buttigieg was asked by host Jim Sciutto whether the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is “dangerous.”

“Absolutely,” Buttigieg responded. “And the reason is that it tells youth who are different or whose families are different that there’s something wrong with them out of the gate, and I do think that contributes to the shocking levels of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth.”

Buttigieg highlighted his own children with husband Chasten, and how the legislation might silence them from discussing their parents in school.

“Chasten, my husband, pointed out that if our kids someday, some Monday morning, come into class, you know, and kids are sitting around and the teacher’s got the morning circle talking about how everybody’s weekends went, and one of them says, ‘I had the best weekend with my dads,’ is the teacher supposed to say, ‘No, we don’t talk about that here?’” Buttigieg said.

“Any age where it’s appropriate to talk about a kid’s mom and dad, then it should be appropriate to talk about a kid’s mom and mom or dad and dad or whatever family structure we live with,” he continued. “That’s part of what it means to be pro-family, is to be pro-every family.”

Chasten Buttigieg, an author and educator, has previously slammed the bill on multiple occasions. He attacked the bill and Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in a tweet last month, saying it “will kill kids” and that DeSantis was “purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in.”

Buttigieg later appeared on CNN, where he said the bill was “essentially pushing kids back into the closet” and telling them that they “don’t belong here.”

He pointed to a Trevor Project survey of LGBTQ youth which found that 42% of youth had seriously considered taking their own life.

“We should be approaching that number with urgency, compassion, and care,” Buttigieg said, adding, “As a kid who grew up for 18 years being told ‘you don’t belong, something about you is wrong,’ sometimes you take that trauma to heart. Unfortunately there’s a lot of kids in this country who do the worst because we tell them, ‘something about you is twisted and you don’t belong here.'”

President Joe Biden has also spoken out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” Biden tweeted earlier this month. “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that President Biden spoke out against the bill in order to send a message to LGBTQ students who would be affected by the bill.

Psaki accused Florida lawmakers of “advancing legislation that is designed to target and attack the kids who need the support most, kids from the LGBTQI+ community, who are already vulnerable to bullying…and violence just for being themselves and just for being who they are.”

“Make no mistake: this is not an isolated action in Florida. Across the country, we’re seeing Republican leaders taking action to regulate what students can or cannot read, what they can or cannot learn, and most troubling, who they can or cannot be,” she said.

“This is who these kids are, and these legislators are trying to make it harder for them to be who they are. So we felt it was important to speak out against this action.”

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