Over half of LGBTQ2S+ parents in Florida have considered moving out of state

Seventeen percent have already taken steps to leave the state

Over half of parents in Florida who are LGBTQ2S+ have considered moving out of the state, according to a new report on the impacts of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

The Williams Institute, a public policy research institute at the UCLA School of Law, just released a study that found that 56 percent of LGBTQ2S+ parents in Florida have considered moving to another state following the signing of House Bill 1557, often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in March of last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Seventeen percent of respondents said they have already taken steps to do so. The researchers surveyed 113 LGBTQ2S+ parents in the state, some of whom also have LGBTQ2S+ children. Of those with queer and/or trans children, 13 percent said their child expressed fears related to living in Florida as an LGBTQ2S+ youth. 

“The Don’t Say Gay bill claims to be for parent rights, but my rights have been taken away since its passage,” said one respondent. “My right to send my daughter to school freely, my right to live without fear of who I am, my right not to be discriminated against based on my sexual orientation, and my daughter not to be discriminated against.”

Participants in the study who said they had considered moving out of state reported that they were saving money, looking for jobs and exploring housing markets outside of Florida to that end. However, many were conflicted at the idea of leaving behind family and friends. Still others reported that moving is currently impossible due to dependants, family members with care needs or a lack of job options elsewhere. 

“I am terrified that I would need to make the decision to leave Florida and leave my parents,” said another respondent. “The idea of having to leave to protect my child and my partner and I is scary but one I am willing to do. It is just another reminder that LGBTQ2S+ [people] truly are not safe anywhere.”

The study found that the bill’s passing has negatively impacted LGBTQ2S+ parents in  myriad ways. Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said they have become “less out” in their communities, and one in four reported that they had experienced anti-LGBTQ2S+ harassment since March. Many voiced the concern that, beyond restricting access to comprehensive education about sexual and gender identities, the bill would result in a hostile climate for queer people by suggesting that there is something wrong with them. 

Also known as the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, the law forbids teachers from discussing LGBTQ2S+ topics with students in kindergarten through to Grade 3, as well as in a manner that is not “age appropriate” for students. It also allows parents who think their teacher has violated the law to sue their school district. While the bill nominally applies mainly to teachers and students in grades K-3, LGBTQ2S+ advocates have voiced concern that its effects could be more far-reaching. Critics worry that the bill might be interpreted to apply to other grades, cause a general chilling effect on discussion of queer issues in schools or lead to the outing of LGBTQ2S+ students.


In fact, the ripple effects of the bill are already being felt in Florida. New rules set by the state’s Board and Department of Education aimed at enforcing the law include one that requires schools to inform parents about policies that allow students to use their preferred bathroom and another that states that teachers found in violation of the new law could potentially lose their licences. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also found that anti-LGBTQ2S+ “grooming” narratives surged 400 percent on social media following the passage of the bill. This is also happening amidst multiple attacks on gender-affirming care by state officials in the past year. 

Many major organizations and entities have condemned the bill, including the White House. “This is discrimination, plain and simple,” they said in a statement. “It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety and well-being.”

The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics responded to DeSantis’s signing of the bill as well, saying it “will harm Florida’s children in the classroom and beyond.” The American Psychological Association, The Trevor Project and the HRC have also condemned the bill.

While Florida is the only state to have passed this type of legislation, more than a dozen other states have proposed similar bills. Some, like the proposed law in Pennsylvania, surpass the restrictions of the Florida law by attempting to prohibit any discussion of LGBTQ2S+ issues up to Grade 5 and requiring that parents be notified of any physical or mental health services their child receives. Lawmakers have also introduced a version of the bill at the federal level.

Parents in other states that have passed discriminatory legislation are already confronting the same difficult choices that parents in Florida are faced with. The passage of similar bills elsewhere could mean that more families are forced to make these kinds of decisions. 

“It is hard to relay the sense of threat many of us feel and the expectation of possible violence in Florida,” said one respondent of the William’s Institute study. “But it is present.”

Maddy Mahoney (she/her) is a journalist and writer based in Toronto. You can find her work at CBC Arts, Maisonneuve, Toronto Life, Loose Lips Magazine and others. She lives in Toronto and speaks English.

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Politics, Power, News, Youth, United States

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