Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants Texas version of Florida law that critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay”

Kids hold flags and wear heart stickers and beads at the Austin Independent School District’s “Pride Out!” party in Austin last month. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants a Texas law similar to Florida legislation limiting classroom lessons about LGBTQ people. (Photo: Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune)

The Florida law prohibits teachers from teaching sexual orientation or gender identity to kids below the fourth grade.

By Brian Lopez and Emily Hernandez, The Texas Tribune

Val Benavidez, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, said in a statement to The Texas Tribune that Patrick’s promise to bring similar legislation to the state is a “stain on Texas.”

“Gender expression by children is not something that is scary or harmful. What is scary is that political activists are grasping at power by overstepping into the lives of Texas families and education of students,” Benavidez said. “While politicians use hate speech that is far from center to harm our vulnerable youth, we will continue to love our children and make sure that all families are uplifted in public life.”

Critics say that the Florida measure’s intent is to stifle and marginalize LGBTQ people and their families. A lawsuit filed by LGBTQ groups in Florida seeks to strike down the law there. The lawsuit alleges that the law violates the constitutional rights of free speech, equal protection and due process of students and families, according to NPR.

Florida’s law also requires school districts to notify parents about health services offered at the school and the option to decline such services. Schools must also inform parents of any health-related questionnaires or health screening forms that may be given to any kindergarten through third grade student.

In his email, Patrick links to a conservative news website purportedly “Exposing Disney’s ‘Gay Agenda.’” The site includes videos of an internal Disney staff meeting held after the “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed in Florida obtained by Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist who in 2020 began using the term “critical race theory” publicly to denounce anti-racist education efforts.

One recording shows a Disney employee discussing adding more queer characters into company productions, according to National Review. Another shows an employee discussing the removal of gendered terms when greeting guests at Disney parks, according to FOX News. For example, instead of saying,“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” the park employees may use “Hello, friends” or “dreamers of all ages.”

In his email, Patrick calls for parents to boycott Disney and stop their children from interacting with Disney products, lest the company “indoctrinate the children of America with their radical ‘woke’ views.” He also said he sold his personal Disney stock and encouraged his supporters to do the same.

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Disclosure: Texas Freedom Network has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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