A rally was held by the LGBTQ community on Saturday at Heartwood Soundstage in Gainsville, Florida to air their opposition to the state's Parental Education Act.
According to The Independent Florida Alligator, protesters at the Heartwood Soundstage held signs that read "We Say Gay" in contrast to the state's Parental Education Act that was dubbed by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
The rally was officially called, "We Say GAYnesville Rally," which was hosted by the PFLAG Gainsville, the Unspoken Treasure Society, and the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida. There were more than 20 organizations that joined the rally, which was attended by almost 500 people including students and teachers.
Speakers, which included Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, shared her own experience in school to stress the importance of allowing sexual discussions in the classroom.
"(Children are) allowed to openly talk about who they are and who their families are in school. They have literally made it illegal to save lives," Poe said.
The Gainesville Sun highlighted that members of the LGBTQ community feared the bill would deprive children of the support they experience in school, which they did not find at home. This would then cause harm to the children.
"It is going to cause kids to be depressed. They are already panicking. (Parents) can put a lawsuit on the teachers. They can cause problems with the schools, so the teachers are terrified at this point," Unspoken Treasures Society Executive Director Regina Livingston told The Gainesville Sun.
Livingston, one of those who joined the rally, elaborated that growing up as a transgender in the 1970s and 1980s was difficult. She found her school as a safe place to express her feelings through her teachers.
Another protester, Larah Doyle, echoed Livingston's sentiments saying that children develop their own personalities in school. Doyle pointed out that removing the safe space children found in schools would not be in their favor.
In addition to the rally in Heartwood, a similar protest was held at the Kanapha Middle School led by eight-grader Oliver Flanagan. The protest was joined by 800 students who walked out of class to signify their opposition to the bill. Flanagan criticized the bill for its harm to the mental health of young people, which is affected when they are unable to talk freely in the classroom about their sexual identity.
"This bill is going to directly harm us. I have seen the destructive effects of outings firsthand. I have seen friends kicked to the curb, and I've seen those who intended to come out and have never heard from them again," Flanagan said during the protest.
The rallies are but among the many criticisms of the Parental Education Act or H.B. 1557, which prohibits classroom discussions on sexual orientation in the state from kindergarten to grade three. President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have condemned the bill along with Disney CEO Bob Chapek and several businesses for its alleged discriminatory nature towards the LGBTQ community.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, however, rebuked the media for causing the controversy against the bill out of the false narratives circulated on it. DeSantis raised that there was nowhere in the bill that says not to speak or say gay. The governor reiterated during the closure of the 117th legislative session of the state that the bill aims to uphold the rights of parents towards the rearing of their children.