While the state of California has experienced its first in loss in population since its entry into the union in 1831, one of the states that has been the direct beneficiary of those fleeing the Golden State is now feeling the negative pushback from its anti-LGBTQ legislation from the one demographic it is known for the most — families.
According to recent research from the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ parents have publicly stated that they are actively considering leaving the Sunshine State due to the widespread legislation that targets their communities.
That same survey found that nearly 20 percent are even actively in the process of moving out of Florida.
While only 113 LGBTQ parents were surveyed, the heightened tension across the state is obvious, in both forms of legislation, education policies and social debate. The survey focused on the comfort level of LGBTQ parents as Florida citizens before and after passed and proposed legislation.
On March 28, 2022, the Florida Legislature passed HB 1557, the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also dubbed the Don’t Say Gay bill. This bill prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity before the 4th grade and requires such instruction to be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” thereafter. Many are concerned that the bill will not only result in restricted or nonexistent education about the existence of diverse sexual and gender identities, but it will result in a chilly or hostile school climate for LGBTQ educators, students, and families because it suggests that something is wrong with LGBTQ identities. Based on surveys of 113 LGBTQ+ parents, this study represents a first look at how HB 1557 is negatively affecting LGBTQ+ parent families in the state. Almost 9 out of 10 (88%) LGBTQ+ parents are very or somewhat concerned about the impact that HB 1557 will have on them and their children, with one in four reporting they have experienced anti-LGBTQ harassment since the law was passed and one in five reporting becoming less out in their communities since the law was passed. Parents have considered a variety of coping strategies in response to the bill, including moving out of the state (56%) and moving their children to a different school (11%). Over 16% of LGBTQ parents have already taken steps to move their families to another state.
When asked, “How worried are you about the effects of the Don’t Say Gay bill/law on your children and family?”, 88% of LGBTQ+ parents said they were very or somewhat worried about the effects of the bill on their children and families.
- LGBTQ+ parents’ initial reactions to the bill ranged from fear to anger to disbelief. Over time, even those who were initially relatively unconcerned (e.g., because they believed the bill would not be signed into law or was unenforceable) became increasingly worried. Some considered moving their children to private schools.
- LGBTQ+ parents voiced a variety of concerns about how Don’t Say Gay would affect their children, including restricting them from speaking freely about their families, negatively impacting their sense of legitimacy, and encouraging a hostile school climate that would negatively impact their children.
- LGBTQ+ parents with LGBTQ+ children voiced intense concerns as they worried about their children’s ability to talk freely about their own and their parents’/family’s identities. Indeed, 13% said that their children had expressed fears about the future related to living in Florida as LGBTQ+ youth.
- LGBTQ+ parents also worried about their own ability to be involved in/volunteer at their children’s schools.
- LGBTQ+ parents who were less concerned typically said that their children were younger (e.g., they were not yet in school) or their children were in private schools. By extension, parents who expressed the greatest concern typically had school-aged children in public schools.
- LGBTQ+ parents reported that their children had already experienced a variety of impacts of the bill. This included harassment and bullying at school because they had LGBTQ+ parents, not being able to talk about their parents or their own LGBTQ+ identities at school or outside of school, and fears about continuing to live in Florida.
- LGBTQ+ parents reported on their experiences over the 3–6 months prior to the survey in a variety of areas: Almost one-quarter feared harassment by neighbors because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Twenty-one percent of LGBTQ+ parents had been less out in their neighborhood, workplace, or community.
- LGBTQ+ parents coped in a variety of ways, including by becoming more engaged in activism, avoiding the news, getting support from friends and family, and planning for the future (e.g., moving).
- Notably, 56% of parents considered moving out of Florida and 16.5% have taken steps to move out of Florida. Indeed, participants said that they were saving money, looking for jobs, and exploring the housing markets outside of Florida. Many felt conflicted, however, noting that they loved their families, friends, and communities; others said that moving was currently impossible for them, as they were caring for older family members or other dependents or had jobs that they could not find elsewhere.
- Other actions, beyond moving, for protecting and defending their families were also endorsed. For example, 11% had considered moving their children to a school that is not bound by the Don’t Say Gay law (such as a private school).
- Some participants talked about Don’t Say Gay with their (usually school-aged) children, with the goal of clarifying what the legislation says, what it doesn’t say, and why people are concerned. Those with young children typically did not speak with them about the legislation, and/or kept the messaging simple and reassuring.