White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law reflects “misinformed, hateful policies that do absolutely nothing to address the real issues” as LGBT+ students and families
“Parents across the country are looking to national, state and district leaders to support our nation’s students, to ensure that kids are treated equally in schools, and this is not a reflection of that,” she said on 4 April.
Ms Psaki responded to a series of questions from Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy, who asked whether Joe Biden’s administration believes it is “fair” that “biological males are competing against women” in university sports, and “at what age does the White House think that students should be taught about sexual orientation or gender identity.”
He also asked whether the White House supports classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity before kindergarten; Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law prohibits classroom instruction sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards” in other grades.
Proponents of the measure, including Governor Ron DeSantis, have repeatedly claimed that the law only applies to younger students, despite its text. The bill’s own author admitted the law applies in all grades.
“Do you have examples of schools in Florida that are teaching kindergarteners about sex education?” she replied. “I think that’s a relevant question. I think this is a politically charged, harsh law putting parents and LGBT+ kids in a very difficult, heart-breaking circumstance.”
She said the US Department of Education is “well positioned and ready to evaluate what to do next,” following statements from Secretary Miguel Cardona suggesting that Florida’s law could violate federal civil rights law, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A group of Florida LGBT+ advocates, civil rights attorneys, students and families have sued the state, also alleging Title IX violations as well as violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The US Department of Justice also issued a letter to all state attorneys general last week reminding them of federal constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender people from discrimination.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all children are able to live free from discrimination, abuse and harassment,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
The letter “reaffirms state and local officials’ obligation to ensure that their laws and policies do not undermine or harm the health and safety of children, regardless of a child’s gender identity,” she said.
Last week, Ms Psaki criticised four bills signed into law in Arizona and Oklahoma targeting abortion rights and transgender athletes as “extreme and harmful”.
“These laws are unacceptable and we won’t stop fighting for justice and equality,” she said on Twitter.