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Florida’s “Explicitly Bigoted” Don’t Say Gay Law

It’s ambiguously drafted, too.
April 4, 2022
Florida’s “Explicitly Bigoted” Don’t Say Gay Law
Revelers celebrate on 7th Avenue during the Tampa Pride Parade in the Ybor City neighborhood on March 26, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. The Tampa Pride was held in the wake of the passage of Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" Bill. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

[On the April 1, 2022 episode of The Bulwark’s “Beg to Differ” podcast, guest Jonathan Rauch criticized Florida’s new “Don’t Say Gay” law. Rauch’s remarks below are transcribed from the podcast.]

Jonathan Rauch: I went to look at the text of the bill . . . and although the bill as cited by the governor of Florida relates to classroom instruction . . . the bill’s preamble describes it as prohibiting classroom discussion. So . . . it’s a miserably drafted bill. It’s ambiguous in at least two directions. It is fuel for lawsuits, and that’s what’s going to happen. Florida is going to spend some money defending this law.

Mona Charen: It already has.

Rauch: . . . There are going to be schools that do different things. I personally, as a gay American, have no problem with a school board that wants to teach openness about gender roles to little kids. This is not teaching about how to have sex; they’re not showing them how to use condoms—nothing like that. That’s their viewpoint. That’s okay with me.

It may bother you, and it certainly bothers people in Florida—that’s okay too. But if they’re going to legislate about it, they should do it in good faith. They should do it with a carefully drafted bill. And they should do it in a way that is not being targeted by state officials . . . in an explicitly bigoted, anti-gay way. . . .

This is one of a lot of efforts around the country to mobilize sentiment on social issues for electoral advantage. Now maybe that’s just politics—some people may be okay with that. Given where I come from as a gay American born in 1960, there’s nothing new here, right? Anita Bryant—think about Colorado, which passed a state law overturning all gay rights in local ordinances. This has been going on forever, but it’s still not a welcome thing, and it’s not a good thing for our politics. And it’s not a humane and decent thing. In my opinion, though, I’d be curious, Mona, if you disagree with much of what you just heard.

Charen: No, I don’t disagree with that. I agree it’s in bad faith. I agree it’s very badly drafted, and that it is intended to hurt people’s feelings and to be a culture war moment.

Jonathan Rauch

Senior fellow in the governance studies program at the Brookings Institution, contributing writer at the Atlantic, and the author of eight books, including Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America (2004). His latest is The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth (2021). Twitter: @jon_rauch.