The State Of LGBTQ Education In The U.S. [Infographic]
Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed the state’s much-discussed Parental Rights in Education bill—much more frequently called the Don’t Say Gay bill—into law on Monday, making the state the fifth in the nation where educators and staff are explicitly prohibited from discussing LGBTQ people and issues as part of curriculums in public schools. This is according to data collected by the LGBTQ and voting rights think tank Movement Advancement Project.
Other active Don’t Say Gay education bills exist in Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Louisiana. In the latter two states, the bills in question were passed as early as 1987, while in Texas and Mississippi, they became law in the 1990s. This makes the Florida law the first one of its kind passed in more than 20 years in the United States.
The previous decades had, on the contrary, seen the removal of several Don’t Say Gay statutes concerning public schools. Comparable laws were repealed in North Carolina in 2006, Utah in 2017, Arizona in 2019, South Carolina in 2020 and Alabama in 2021, according to MAP.
The new Florida law therefore showcases the opposing developments concerning LGBTQ education in U.S. schools. While some states have been establishing legal foundations for LGBTQ curriculums—Connecticut and Nevada added applicable laws in 2021, while New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon and Colorado did so in 2019—Florida is going in the opposite direction. According to The Hill, the state’s bill could be just the beginning of a wave of new Don’t Say Gay legislation for schools.
New wave of Don’t Say Gay bills?
Tennessee, Kansas and Indiana are all working on bills that would ban or severely limit LGBTQ topics in K-12 education. The Florida law is different in the sense that it only outlaws LGBTQ education from kindergarten through third grade, while also prohibiting other age-inappropriate instruction on the topic. Older Don’t Say Gay laws had generally also restricted instruction for all age levels, with their wording ranging from “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public” (Texas) to putting LGBTQ sexuality in the same category as education about “current state laws related to sexual conduct, including forcible rape, statutory rape” (Mississippi), even though gay sex is no longer an offense in the state as of 2003.
Despite Don’t Say Gay education laws currently only affecting five states, they still touch upon 18% of the U.S. LGBTQ population given the inclusion of populous states Texas and Florida. Due to California’s law of mandatory LGBTQ education, 27% of the country’s LGBTQ population lives in states that require the topic to be covered in public schools.
Charted by Statista