by Eleanor Fletcher International Affairs Editor
The controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida has reignited the debate on LGBT+ rights. The bill came just six weeks after Texas banned abortion and demonstrates a growing trend in state administrations passing more conservative legislation.
The new laws have sparked calls for the federal government to step in, however their power in this instance holds little weight. Due to the fact that under the constitution the state legislatures retain much of their sovereignty to pass laws as they see fit. This has led to the federal government having little jurisdiction in these matters, it would possibly need the bills to go to the Supreme Court for them to be overturned. It is important to note that even if the case appeared at the Supreme Court they could equally in support of the bills.
The ’Don’t Say Gay’ bill itself bans the discussion of sexuality and gender in schools and gives parents the power to sue schools directly if they believe an educator has broken the law. Many supporters of the bill have stated that the bill strengthens parental rights and prevents teachers and other staff members from withholding information about gender issues from parents. However, critics have stated that the bill is damaging to already vulnerable students and could not only lead to bullying and attacks but also stigmatise and marginalise students.
LGBT+ rights have always been a controversial topic in the United States. The divisions between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have resulted in constant debate and outrage whenever a law or bill, whether supporting or suppressing the rights of the LGBT+ community, has come into fruition. An example of other controversial bills includes the ‘Don’t Ash Don’t Tell’ policy signed by President Bill Clinton in November 1993 (although repealed in September 2011) which prohibits openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the military. President Clinton also signed the Defence of Marriage Act in September 1996 which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage and defined marriage as a ‘legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife’. Although on June 26th, 2015, The United States Supreme Court ruled in support of same-sex marriage thus legalising it in all fifty states.
Overall, it is clear that the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will continue to strike controversy and that the debate over LGBT+ rights will continue over the next few decades.