For decades, conservatives have spread the debunked notion that LGBTQ people are predators who secretly recruit children to keep the LGBTQ agenda alive. Never mind that the vast majority of LGBTQ people are born to cisgender heterosexual parents.
In the late 1970s, California residents voted on Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative, which would've banned LGBTQ people from teaching in schools, modeled after bans on LGBTQ teachers in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Though the initiative failed, it was born out of citrus spokeswoman and evangelical Christian Anita Bryant's effort that successfully repealed an ordinance in Dade County, Florida protecting LGBTQ teachers from discrimination.
Nearly 50 years later, the dark clouds of that rhetoric are still hanging over the Sunshine State.
Recently, the Florida House passed HB 1557, which critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill. An earlier, broader version of the bill banned any classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity that wasn't "age appropriate," and mandated that teachers out LGBTQ students to their parents, an amendment that was thankfully struck down.
The new version of the bill mandates that:
"Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."
The bill doesn't define what qualifies as "instruction" and its critics still note the bill's broad language that threatens to make it even harder for LGBTQ students to safely and effectively earn their education.
Florida's far-right Governor, Ron DeSantis, has expressed support for the bill, claiming teachers are urging young students not to "pick [their] gender yet," though he offered no evidence beyond his own anecdotes that these discussions ever took place.
Now, DeSantis' spokesperson—Christina Pushaw—is once again pushing the false and dangerous notion that LGBTQ people and anyone who criticizes the Don't Say Gay bill are secretly grooming young children.
Never mind that young children—including children who grow up to be LGBTQ—are regularly exposed to heterosexual relationships through things like fairy tales and history lessons, exposure that (unlike LGBTQ relationships) isn't treated as inherently sexual in nature by conservatives.
Pushaw had no trouble advancing the harmful rhetoric that LGBTQ people are "grooming" children, but Florida State Representative Carlos G. Smith, who happens to be gay, pushed back on her claim.
That's when Pushaw responded by suggesting Smith himself was a pedophile grooming children.
He was far from the only one disgusted by her antics.
Others pointed out the rampant heterosexual "grooming" of children deemed acceptable by swaths of society.
Pushaw continues to double down.