Chasten Buttigieg, an educator and husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, is speaking out against legislation advancing in Florida that critics have dubbed the “Don’t say gay bill,” arguing that it could lead to more suicides among LGBTQ youths.
The legislation, which supporters say is about parental rights, would, among its provisions, bar school districts in Florida from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary-grade levels or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” Parents would be empowered to sue if they think schools are violating the law.
“You’re essentially pushing kids back into the closet,” Chasten Buttigieg said Tuesday during an appearance on CNN. “You’re saying we can’t even talk about your families.”
In a tweet last week, Buttigieg said the legislation “will kill kids,” pointing to a recent survey by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth advocacy group, which found that 42% of LGBTQ youths seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year.
“Sometimes you take that trauma to heart, and unfortunately there are a lot of kids in this country who do the worst,” Buttigieg told CNN.
Those comments amounted to some of his highest-profile advocacy since gaining national prominence as the husband of Pete Buttigieg, a former Democratic presidential candidate and now President Joe Biden’s transportation secretary.
Florida state Rep. Joe Harding, who introduced the bill, told reporters last week, as it was advanced by a House committee, that the legislation is “about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent.”
“That job can only be given to you by above,” Harding, a Republican, said.
But Buttigieg argued that the legislation is hostile to families like his. Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay person to be confirmed to a Cabinet position in the United States, and last year, the couple announced the adoption of twins.
“If kids come into the classroom on Monday morning and they’re all talking about their weekends and hypothetically a kid like mine says, ‘I had the best weekend with my dad; we went to the zoo; we went and got ice cream,’ is a teacher supposed to say, ‘Hey, hey, hey, we don’t talk about things like that in this classroom?’ ” Buttigieg said. “Not only what does that do to kids like mine, but what does that do to a kid in the classroom who might be starting to realize that they’re different?”
Buttigieg said that, in his view, the bill is not about promoting parents’ rights.
“I think it’s about using the LGBT community as a scapegoat, which we’ve been used as multiple times throughout history, and I just don’t agree with it,” he said.