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Students, supporters PROTEST ‚ÄòDON’T SAY GAY‚Äô bill outside Gaither High

By Jeffrey S. Solochek

As soon as Moses May learned about Florida lawmakers’ efforts to hinder conversations about LGBTQ issues in schools, he knew he had to do something.

“I was really freaked out,” the Gaither High School freshman said. “Quite a few of my friends I know could be harmed.”

Aiming to call more local attention to the nationally followed legislation, now frequently referred to as the “don’t say gay” bill, May organized a Monday morning rally along the busy stretch of N Dale Mabry Highway outside his school. He hoped three or four people might show up to wave signs and show support for LGBTQ rights.

Close to three dozen students and allies turned out. They shared a desire to make sure their voices, and their stories, do not fall victim to lawmaker actions they said were “insane,” “harmful” and worse.

“I feel pretty safe talking to most of my teachers,” said Comet Tartaglione, a senior who is transgender. “If this bill were in place, I would not feel safe any more.”

Tartaglione pointed to the portion of the legislation that would require school personnel to notify a student’s parents if they note any change in services or monitor any shift in the child’s mental, emotional or physical health. To him and others, that’s equivalent to outing them, whether they want it or not.

Several others at the protest disagreed with a section of the legislation that would bar classroom discussion about gender identity and sexual orientation in “primary grade levels” or in a manner deemed not to be age- or developmentally-appropriate.

“They’re trying to make gay as if it is a bad thing,” said sophomore Aureanna Hadley, who carried a sign reading “Pan with a plan,” referring to being pangender. “When you tell people not to talk about something, it’s usually because it’s bad.”

The legislation is making its way through the session in the form of Senate Bill 1834 and House Bill 1557.

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