Tallahassee students protest LGBTQ instruction bill inside Florida Capitol
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/3/22-Students and activists opposed to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill now moving through the Legislature protest outside the House Chamber, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Similar demonstrations are sprouting in schools statewide.

Tallahassee-area students poured into the Capitol on Thursday, taking part in a statewide student demonstration against a measure limiting LGBTQ instruction in Florida’s schools.

The roughly 100 or so demonstrators left nearby schools and marched into the Capitol Rotunda sometime after 1 p.m. to challenge the legislation critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The bill is among the most contested of the 2022 Legislative Session. It would closely regulate LGBTQ instruction in the classroom and conversations with younger students.

Sponsored by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley and Levy County Republican Rep. Joe Harding, it would ban school districts from “encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate.” It also would allow parents to sue a school district if such a violation occurred.

They waved signs and chanted against the proposal outside the House and Senate chambers. Their voices were audible on the House floor, where lawmakers convened on other legislation. 

“We say gay,” they chanted. “F**k DeSantis,” they chanted too, among other rally cries.

Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, joined the teenagers.

Book applauded the student-led, student-organized protest, characterizing it as both a “heartening” and “strengthening” demonstration.

“This gives us more fortitude and more fight to continue to do the work that we’re here to do to protect kids like this and all over the state of Florida,” Book added.

Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani and St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner also joined the action.

Rayner is among the few openly gay members of the Legislature. She danced and cheered alongside Boca Raton Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky as protesters clapped and cheered.

“Peaceful civil disobedience is a part of our history as a country and this is what we’re seeing throughout the state,” Rayner said. “I think our lawmakers and the Governor should take notice.”

Indeed, protests against the proposal — formally known otherwise as the Parental Rights in Education bill — are popping up across Florida. Reports show school walkouts in Tampa, Orange Park, West Palm Beach and elsewhere.

Devolynn Wilson, a 19-year-old student in Tallahassee, characterized the proposal as an encroachment on human rights. After graduation, Wilson hopes to leave Florida.

“The bill not only threatens my existence, but the existence of the children after me,” said Wilson, who uses they/them pronouns. “I remember school being a safe place, especially for a lot of my friends who could not express themselves at home, and the idea of school not being a safe place for a lot of children terrifies me.”

The Tuesday demonstration was 17-year-old Grace Thomas’ first political protest. Thomas is bisexual. 

“It silences us,” Thomas lamented. “It definitely impacts me and my friends and my peers in a very negative way.”

Notably, angst against the bill is national. 

President Joe Biden in February condemned it as “hateful” and vowed to fight on behalf of LGBTQ youth.

“I have your back, and my administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve,” Biden said.

The 2022 Legislative Session is set to end March 11.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


  • nail

    March 3, 2022 at 4:35 pm

    Florida is FREE as long as you do what DeSantis wants!

    These kids were great. Formed this protest themselves.
    After yesterdays bullying session, DeSantis, lost every parent in the state. Who the hell is he to tell anyone to remove their masks? That is the child or their parents decision. And his BS about them not working, is exactly that, BS.
    Because he bought the witch doctor that does not believe in medicine only the Great Barrington Theory where no one takes precautions. Whoever dies dies,, but the strong will survive.This was his attitude thoughout the whole pandemic.
    70,000 dead, more children dead in Fl from Covid than any other state.
    DeSantis will know these kids when they show up at the polls as voters in Nov. They are not going to take DeSantis’ BS any longer.

  • Kevin Anderson

    March 5, 2022 at 5:38 pm

    Shouting “F*ck DeSantis” is considered “peaceful civil disobedience”, but saying “Let’s Go Brandon” is “a threat to our democracy”? Interesting…

Comments are closed.


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