Part 1 in a series of articles by NJ Urban News will spotlight a new law in Florida that many contend effectively eliminates LGBTQ identity in schools. The series will also examine New Jersey’s repeal of an outdated law that targets people with HIV/AIDS.

 In late March, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed off on legislation that many contend silences and effectively erases LGBTQ students in the state. A lawsuit filed by a civil rights group could signal similar legislation being adopted in other states; the move discourages identity and acceptance of alternative lifestyles.

The catchphrase “Don’t Say, Gay,” refers to a law that bars the teaching or classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Florida is the first state to implement such a direct and sweeping law that boldly challenges the rights of the LGBTQ community. The new law has outraged thousands of people in Florida and across the country, including New Jersey. Several high-profile politicians laud the edict, speculating that a similar decree may be in the future in New Jersey.

The LGBTQ Rainbow Flag (Media Image)

For example, former Republican governor hopeful and businessman Jack Ciattarelli has been an outspoken critic of current and previous efforts that support, encourages, or educate others about the LGBTQ lifestyle—especially in schools. He voted against same-sex marriage and voted to ban conversion therapy for minors. “We’re not teaching sodomy in sixth grade,” he said. After being sharply denounced by many, including Garden State Equality, the state’s largest gay rights advocacy group, Ciattarelli quickly rolled back the statement. He said he referred to the explicit and mature content taught to children. “All schools should be promoting diversity, inclusivity and tolerance, and respect for others,” he said. Ciattarelli narrowly lost the 2021 state gubernatorial race to incumbent Phil Murphy and has hinted at making another run for the state’s top spot in four years.

Some gay rights activists in the Garden State liken the term, Don’t Say Gay to similar inflammatory rhetoric frequently spewed by racists and homophobes. “Bigoted politicians {like DeSantis} use the catchphrase to gather support from their homophobic base to get re-elected,” said Frank Mahood, a gay rights activist in Hopewell, NJ. Mahood has been married to his husband Chet since 2013. He added, “Reinforcing ignorance and hate in impressionable young minds, violates the freedom of expression and speech of student, teacher and parents.” 

DeSantis, who is being touted as the Republican nominee for a 2024 run for President, is also under fire for a series of legislative moves in recent months regarding health and medical issues, including signing an extreme abortion ban after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. He also publicly denounced people for wearing masks during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In related news, New Jersey repealed a law that targets and discriminates against people living with HIV/AIDS. Earlier this year, Gov. Murphy repealed an outdated rule that targeted HIV-positive people that engaged in sex without telling their partners about their HIV status. The law also makes it illegal for someone with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) to engage in sex without informing their partner. The bill’s primary sponsors, Senators Joe Vitale and M. Teresa Ruiz, lauded the governor for mandating the historic legislation in a press release. “The criminal code is meant to punish actions that harm others, not discriminate against people living with a chronic health condition,” Ruiz said. She added, Over the years, there has been a culture of criminally targeting HIV-positive individuals rather than targeting those who intentionally expose others.” 

Glenn Townes

I'm an award winning journalist based in Edison, NJ. My work has been featured in dozens of publications including, Black Enterprise magazine; ESSENCE magazine and Real Health magazine. I am also a featured...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.