Queer families are under attack in flordia and texas

Queer Families Are Under Attack in Florida and Texas and it’s Nowhere Near Over

This week, queer families have been the targets of major political attacks in two of the biggest states in the nation.

On Tuesday, the Governor of Texas instructed the state’s citizens, teachers, doctors, and health agencies to report trans youth and investigate their parents for “child abuse.” And on Thursday, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed through the Florida House, which would prohibit "classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity" in the state’s primary schools.

However, all hope is definitely not lost. The LGBTQ+ community has been here before, and these fights have only just begun. Legal experts are reassuring Texas families that Governor Abbott’s letter has no actual legal effect. And advocates across the nation say they are not backing down over lawmakers’ efforts to censor any mention of Florida’s LGBTQ+ families.

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In Florida, House lawmakers approved the Parental Rights in Education bill, nicknamed the "Don’t Say Gay" bill, by 69-to-47. 

Queer rights advocates say it would essentially bar any discussion of the existence of LGBTQ+ people in Florida’s elementary schools. Earlier this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary and gay dad-of-two Pete Buttigieg outlined the potential dangers of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, especially on LGBTQ+ people and children with gay parents.

“The reason [it is dangerous] is that it tells youth who are different, or whose families are different, that there is something wrong with them out of the gate,” he said. “And I do think that contributes to the shocking levels of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth.”

All Florida’s House Democrats, plus seven Republicans, voted against the act. The bill now moves to the Florida Senate, where similar legislation is also being considered.

According to the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at the University of North Florida, 49 percent of Floridians oppose the legislation, and only 40 percent support it. 

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The Human Rights Campaign said despite what lawmakers say, most Floridians support LGBTQ+ rights. Notably, opposition for the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is even stronger in younger populations, who are willing to fight for their queer peers.

“A majority of Floridians between the ages of 18 and 24, recent high school graduates, disapprove of efforts to erase LGBTQ+ people in classrooms,” HRC said. “The reality is that however sensational and polarizing this issue may seem, public opinion polling across the country showed strong support for trans-inclusive and pro-equality policies.”

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Also this week, Texas’ Republican Governor Greg Abbott wrote a letter to the state Department of Family and Protective Services, directing the agency to investigate any parents who allow their transgender children to receive gender-affirming surgeries, which he called “abusive procedures.”

According to Gov. Abbott, based on an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General, all licensed health professionals and teachers in Texas are required to “report” any trans youth with whom they have been in “direct contact” who have undergone “sex change” procedures or hormone therapies. 

He said DFPS and all other state agencies must follow the law as explained by the OAG “to protect Texas children from abuse.” Those who fail to do so could face criminal penalties.

“It is already against the law to subject Texas children to a wide variety of elective procedures for gender transitioning, including reassignment surgeries that can cause sterilization, mastectomies, removals of otherwise healthy body parts, and administration of puberty-blocking drugs or supraphysiologic doses of testosterone or estrogen,” Abbott said. 

“Texas law imposes reporting requirements upon all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, and provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse. There are similar reporting requirements and criminal penalties for members of the general public.”

Queer advocates say first and foremost, it's important for queer families to remember that attorney general opinions do not carry the weight of law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and other trans and human rights groups decried Abbott's letter, immediately issuing statements outlining the dangers of the policy, and reassuring the public that no laws have changed.

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“[Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s] opinion is not legally binding, and it remains up to the courts to interpret Texas laws and the Constitution,” the ACLU said. “Moreover, DFPS cannot remove any child from their parents or guardians without a court order.”

The ACLU added that no court in Texas or anywhere in the country has ever found that gender-affirming care can be considered “child abuse.” 

“The opinion released by Paxton cites highly partisan, outdated, and inaccurate information that ignores the consensus of every major medical association and the evidence-based and peer-reviewed standards of care,” the ACLU added.

Despite Abbott's directive, the county office that represents the state of Texas in civil child abuse cases, which is based in Houston, said it would not take any actions based on the governor's letter.

Texas' largest child welfare advocacy group said it was also unclear what judges and prosecutors would do with the AG's opinion, according to NBC. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said there are currently no open cases based on the governor's directive.

Adri Pérez, a policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said contrary to the Governor’s stance, gender-affirming care has saved many lives, including their own.

“Trans kids today deserve the same opportunity by receiving the highest standard of care, rooted in decades of scientific research. No partisan political attack can change that,” Adri said.

“Our state's leaders need to focus on helping our youth and all people in our state instead of falsely attacking parents and doctors who are lovingly advocating for their children with the medically necessary care. We will never stop fighting to protect trans kids and their families in Texas."

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Brian Klosterboer, staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, reiterated that the AG’s legal opinion and the Governor’s letter “have no legal effect and cannot change Texas law, nor usurp the constitutional rights of Texas families.”

“But they [do] spread fear and misinformation,” Klosterboer said. “And [it] could spur false reporting of child abuse at a time when DFPS is already facing a crisis in our state’s foster care system.”

Gov. Abbott and AG Paxton's opinions and letters came one week before they will both be on the ballot for Republican voters in Texas' first-in-the-nation primary of 2022. 

According to HRC, there are more than 266 anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country, just two months into the year.

Of those, at least 125 bills directly target transgender people and nearly half of those, more than 57 bills, would ban trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

You can support trans youth in Texas by donating to the largest trans-led, trans-focused organization in the state; Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT,) which uses donations to create sustainable accessibility to hearings, support individuals and groups on the ground, and offset costs of facilitating workshops.

Posted by Brit Smith

Brit Smith is a Staff Writer & Associate Editor at GWK. A native of London, England, Brit started her American adventure nannying and waiting tables in Texas in 2006, and eventually graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017. Brit has previously written and created podcasts for WBZ NewsRadio, iHeart Media, and Different Leaf.



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