Our Representative Republic is one of the hallmarks of the United States that makes us a great nation and the envy of other nations. Every year we hold free and fair elections to choose our leaders that will represent our communities and our state in the legislative process on both the federal and state level. We may not always like the outcome of our elections; it's always a major disappointment when our preferred candidates do not win, but we accept the results and continue to advocate for policies and ideals that reflect our core values.
On January 6th, 2021, our Democracy was egregiously threatened after one man and his supporters refused to accept the outcome of an election and after losing 60+ lawsuits. Never before in our history has the peaceful transfer of power been marred with violence, destruction, and the loss of life, because for all of our history we have respected and honored our Democratic processes. Equally egregious is the fact that many state and government officials were either complicit or complacent in the failed attempt to overturn a free and fair election which, if achieved, would have utterly demolished our constitutional representative republic and replaced it with a dictatorship much like that of Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea. Even more egregious than the prior two vulgarities is that most of those elected officials continue to be entrusted with the keys of our Democracy despite having demonstrated that they are more than willing to lock up and imprison our Democracy and lock out all of those with whom they disagree. For as long as these government officials continue to remain in their positions of power, our Democracy will always be in peril. For as long as there are government officials who continue to support and propagate the lies that lead to January 6th or prop up those who do or disrespect the will of the people, our Democracy will be threatened. We believe all those who were complicit and complacent with the lies and events that contributed to the attack on our Capitol that dark day on January 6th should be voted out and any future attempts to undermine our elections should be vehemently condemned. Of course, as Democrats we wish to replacement them all with fellow Democrats. However, replacing those who displayed such disregard and disdain for our Constitution with conservatives who demonstrate integrity, though disappointing on the one hand, would be welcomed on the other.
Our children are our future. The success of our children as adults is determined by their experiences and learnings during the ages they are most impressionable which are the ages they spend much of their days in school. During the pandemic teachers were hailed as heroes on the front line, praised for their dedication, and Florida teachers were given bonuses as a show of appreciation. Somewhere along the way, teachers went from being heroes to being accused of ‘grooming’ and ‘indoctrinating’ kids, of teaching kids to hate their country, and of recruiting kids for a gay agenda. The inexplicable transition of teachers being loved and revered to smeared and demonized has created a painful whiplash that has affected all aspects of education and has contributed to Florida’s large and growing teacher shortage. The attacks on our teachers and education system must stop.
In the last few years there has been a blatantly concerted, and unfortunately a very successful, effort to pit parents against teachers and school administrators. It is ultimately the children who will suffer from the petulant and unnecessary games played by power hungry and attention seeking adults. Parents should and always have had the right and opportunity to decide how little or much they wish to participate in their child’s education. We encourage all parents to be fully engaged in their child’s education inside and outside of the classroom. We expect teachers, administrators, and board members to be easily accessible to parents and to listen to and address the concerns of parents.
The rights of parents are extremely important, but the Parental Rights Bill was never about the rights of parents. It is and always has been about erasing LGBTQ teachers, students, and parents. It is the latest effort in a long history of efforts within Florida to target a vulnerable community with unwarranted vitriol and hatred for no other reason than their sexual orientation or identity. You can read more details under the issue ‘LGBTQ+’ to learn how ‘protecting our children’ has been used as a pretense to harass and demonize queer people for decades.
Critical race theory has also been at the center of manufactured outrage and attacks on academic freedom that are protected under the First Amendment. Republican Senator Tim Scott unwittingly gave a very short and concise definition of Critical Race Theory after the racist massacre of 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY. Senator Scott stated in a tweet on May 15, 2022 that “The threads of racism left in the fabric of our country need to be cut out.” Critical Race Theory studies how racism is still woven into the fabric of our country and how it affects Black people and society. That’s it. It does not teach that we should hate our country. It does not teach that white people are bad. If you do not believe that the outrage over CRT is the product of a very well coordinated campaign to manipulate people into believing things that simply are not true, look no further than the words of Christopher Rufo who was recently appointed by Ron DeSantis to the board of New College. Rufo was an architect behind the CRT hysteria, and he very eloquently confessed the intentions behind the hysteria in a tweet on March 15th, 2021. We have successfully frozen their brand—"critical race theory"—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think "critical race theory." We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans. In other words, we will lie and make people hate CRT and then call everything we don’t like CRT. That is precisely what has happened.
The manufactured hysteria of CRT lead to the prohibition of teaching anything that makes a student feel ‘uncomfortable’, and created a pathway for parents to sue teachers and schools. Purposely setting parents against teachers is grotesque and not at all in the best interest of students. The fear of litigation and retaliation has lead to the whitewashing and beautification of the racism that has plagued our country and is still contained within the ‘fabric of our country’. Indeed, Florida’s new civics course for teachers (Florida Civics Seal of Excellence) claims that 2/3 of our Founding Fathers owned slaves but they ‘did not defend the institution’ of slavery and ‘did all they could’ on the issue of slavery. Ludicrous! The very act of owning slaves and the brutality inflicted upon them was a huge endorsement for the institution. Our founding fathers could have pulled the plug on slavery at any time. They did not. They could have freed their own slaves at any time. They did not. Another egregious falsity coming out of Florida’s civics course is that our founding fathers really didn’t want separation of church and state. There are only two times our Constitution mentions religion and both times religion is flatly rejected. No religion shall be established, and there shall be no religious test to hold office. Teaching that our founding fathers did not embrace the separation of church and state is a blatant lie. These lies don’t belong in education.
We should be encouraging and creating ways for parents and teachers to work together in the education of their children; instead, our state officials have focused on destroying the trust and cooperation between teachers and parents that is essential to providing students a good education and positive experiences. We should be teaching the history of our country accurately and truthfully no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Our country has a rich history that spans the abhorrent to the extraordinary. It is cowardly and dishonest to ignore and distort the portions of our history we do not like, and it is an insult to our ancestors who lived through and experienced the darkest days of that history.
The manipulative campaigns against CRT and the LGBTQ community have also led to the banning of books in school libraries across Florida. Most are written by or about POC and LGBTQ+ people. These are books that have been on the shelves for years without any issues. Except for Texas, Florida school districts have banned more books than any other state. This is not a distinguishing characteristic our state should be proud of. Controversial books should remain in our school libraries and be labeled by their age recommendations. Parents should take an active role in discussing with there child which books they feel are appropriate. This is one of the many opportunities parents have to be involved and engaged with their child.
Our Governor furthered his efforts to whitewash education in the state of Florida when he rejected an AP course on Black studies saying it had no educational value. Let’s be blunt. A white man with no background in education or history should not be telling highly educated Black scholars what is or is not of educational value regarding Black studies. The AP course should have been accepted, and the curriculum sent home with students so that the student along with their parents could discuss and evaluate the course, deciding together if the student would participate. That’s what parental rights looks like.
The attacks and divisiveness waged against education extended into our universities when Republicans passed blatantly unconstitutional laws to restrict what can be taught regarding racism and diversity. Indeed, the Stop Woke Act has been ruled unconstitutional and an egregious violation of the first amendment and academic freedom. There is currently an injunction stopping the implementation of the law. This did not stop our Republican legislators from passing more of the same unconstitutional bills. First amendment organizations like FIRE, who won their lawsuit against the state, are once again speaking out about Florida’s decimation of the 1st amendment. These organizations will likely sue again, and they will win again. Meanwhile, MILLIONS of tax dollars have been spent to defend these obviously bad bills, and the legislature just approved millions more. The reprehensible and hostile take over of New College by our Governor and his cronies is yet another vile display of arrogance and authoritarianism that everyone should find disturbing regardless of political affiliation.
Florida has a massive teacher shorter that will only continue to grow. Our Governor’s attempt to recruit ex military and law enforcement resulted in only a handful of hires. Florida ranks 48th in teacher pay and veteran teachers make only slightly more than new teachers. Scholars and students will not be drawn to our Universities. The divisiveness that has been created in our education system is hurting our schools, our teachers, our parents, and ultimately the children will be the most adversely affected. The intense clashes and bitter vitriol over what was best during the pandemic was stressful and exhausting to all involved, including students. We got through that only to have our Republican officials launch another war with the clear goal of whitewashing our history and suppressing and demonizing LGBTQ+ teachers, students, and parents. This war needs to stop. Our teachers need a massive pay raise, and our queer teachers, students, and parents need to be welcomed and made to feel safe within our education system.
We also believe that tax dollars should remain within the public education system. There are indeed times when a student with a learning or physical disability or with other specific needs will benefit more in a different school that can meet those needs. This is a very appropriate use of vouchers funded by tax dollars. Other than special circumstances, private schools should not be receiving public tax dollars. Our tax dollars should be spent on our public schools to give teachers the raises they deserve, to recruit more teachers, and to give public schools the tools they need to improve the education and lives of their students. We should invest our tax dollars to create a school system that is a parent’s first choice, not their last.
The present day politicization, demonetization, and undermining of our teachers and schools under the guise of ‘protecting the children’ is a mirrored image of our past history, a history that has been archived in the Halls of Shame. The history our Republican officials are now creating will inevitably be filed within those same shameful halls.
Gun Violence is not a blue state or red state issue. It is not a blue city or red city issue. Gun violence is a United States issue. No where in the world, outside of war, is there a country so plagued and stained with the death and devastation resulting from gun violence than the United States. Mass shootings occur every day in our country and every day the desensitization and indifference among our citizens and government officials grow greater than the day before, greater than the last mass shooting, greater than the previous loss of life.
We believe that individuals have a right to bear arms. Many Democrats do indeed own guns. However, like most rights, that right is not absolute, and the Supreme Court has agreed and upheld this view for 100+ years. In the landmark Supreme Court case Columbia v Heller (2008) the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms—unconnected with service in a militia—for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense within the home. We agree! Just as important and very often ignored from that very same opinion is the affirmation by Justice Anthony Scalia that “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. [It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Those who respond ‘shall not be infringed’ to any talk of gun regulation conveniently ignore the ‘well regulated’ portion of our 2nd Amendment that precedes and applies to all other portions and hundreds of years of Supreme Court rulings. It is an intellectually lazy response born out of the inability or petulant refusal to discuss gun violence and gun regulations in good faith.
With an understanding of our 2nd amendment right that is backed by conservative Supreme Court rulings and our Constitution itself, we do support sensible and reasonable regulations for the purchase and possession of guns. Below are our positions on a few regulations currently being discussed.
Universal background checks and registration. Background checks have withstood the scrutiny of the courts and should apply to all purchases of firearms including private transactions. A national firearms registration data base is currently prohibited by law, but we think registering a gun in either a state of national database should be no more controversial than registering our vehicles.
Ban the future sell of Automatic Rifles. It is undeniable that AR-15 style weapons have increasingly been used to carry out mass shootings resulting in massive losses of life. There is no reason for anyone to own a gun that was designed for military use and to maximize the death of human beings. There are thousands of other guns that can be utilized for self-defense, hunting, and sports. These weapons were banned for 10 years, and that ban was not deemed unconstitutional by the courts. We believe a ban of AR-15 style weapons clearly falls under Scalia’s affirmation that our 2nd amendment is not absolute. Many dishonestly use the desire to ban this type of weapon as a precursor to ban more or all guns. This just isn’t the case. The 10-year ban on assault weapons did not at all lead to the banning of other guns or the increased passage of other gun regulations. We are not coming for your guns. We simply wish to ban the future sale of AR-15 style weapons, because many mass shootings have involved recently purchased guns. Are there people who do wish to ban all guns? Sure, but they are a very, very minuscule and insignificant minority and frankly not at all reasonable. Politicians who peddle the falsity that Democrats are coming for all of your guns are being disingenuous and supporting their position through fear instead of reasonable, good faith debate. One often resorts to fear mongering when one cannot support their position with a compelling argument.
Red Flag Laws. Red flag laws are designed to keep guns out of the hands of those who demonstrate a lack of mental stability to own or possess a gun. After every horrible mass shooting, we hear many politicians very adamantly proclaim that ‘guns don't kill people, people kill people’ and that these shootings are a result of mental illness, yet these same lawmakers want to make it easier for everyone to obtain and carry a gun and this inevitably includes those with mental health issues. We support red flag laws, but also recognize the potential for the violation of one’s due process rights in implementing these laws. This concern is legitimate and should not be ignored. It is vital that we find a balance between protecting due process rights and protecting the public. We believe this balance can be achieved with comprehensive guidelines that incorporate the input of friends, family, law enforcement, medical professionals, social workers, and judges who evaluate these cases. States who implement red flag laws should have in place a system to periodically evaluate cases that have utilized these laws to ensure the process is conducted fairly, efficiently, and consistently. There should also be a quick and efficient process that allows guns to be returned to individuals who are determined well enough to have them returned. We believe that our lawmakers on the state and national level can create legislation that protects both the 2nd amendment and due process rights if they are willing to come together and work towards that goal.
We also call on our politicians and candidates to cease the glorification of guns in campaign ads and other materials. We absolutely respect an individual's right and desire to express their opposition to certain or all gun regulations, but there is an undeniable culture in the United States that has somehow managed to attach one’s worth, social status, and clout to an object that is manufactured for the sole purpose of inflicting physical harm on another whether that harm be a result of lawful and rightful self-defense and hunting or illegal and malicious intentions. Guns should be respected, not worshiped, especially in a setting or context where one speaks of beating an opponent or criticizes those with whom they disagree. We believe in the right to bear arms. We also believe that right should be exercised with good judgment.
“The best and current estimate of active homosexuals in Florida is 60,000 individuals. The plain fact of the matter is that a great many homosexuals have an insatiable appetite for sexual activities and find special gratification in the recruitment to their ranks of youth. The homosexual's goal is to "bring over" the young person, to hook him for homosexuality. A veteran investigator of homosexual activities… said, "We must do everything in our power to create one thing in the minds of every homosexual and that is to keep their hands off our children. …if we don't act soon we will wake up some morning and find they are too big to fight. They may be already. I hope not...We hope that many citizen organizations in Florida will use this report… to prepare their children to meet the temptations of homosexuality lurking today in the vicinity of nearly every institution of learning.”
This quote comes from the “Purple Pamphlet” that was released by the Johns Committee in 1964. The Johns Committee was an investigative committee within the Florida Legislature that spent nearly 10 years terrorizing teachers, faculty, staff, and students in Florida universities and schools between 1956 and 1965 in a malicious and hateful quest to purge academia of homosexuals. The Johns Committee was born from McCarthy’s ‘Red Scare’ and the lesser known ‘Lavender Scare’ which resulted in more than 5000 men and women losing their jobs with the government, private contractors, and the military because of their sexual orientation. The malicious attacks and smear campaigns that we are seeing today against the LGBTQ community and their allies are a rinse and repeat of the baseless and shameful attacks lodged against them nearly 70 years ago.
In 1977, twenty years after the disgraceful Johns Committee was disbanded, Anita Bryant launched another baseless and homophobic campaign called ‘Save Our Children’ in Dade County. Bryant believed that homosexuals having rights infringed on her parental rights. Bryant’s political coalition argued that “homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit. And to freshen their ranks, they must recruit the youth of America.” Anita Bryant spent a few years in the spotlight but was eventually shunned for her anti-gay crusade.
When the Parental Rights Bill, also known as the Don’t Say Gay Bill, was introduced in the Florida legislature, many had very legitimate concerns that the bills language was overly broad and vague and would result in baseless and frivolous accusations and litigation. We also believed the bill was designed to quell any mention or support of the LGBTQ community and not about prohibiting sex education in K-3rd grades as was the claim made by our Governor and supporters of the bill. Our concerns with the bill were proven correct when Republicans in the legislature refused to amend the language of the bill from ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ to ‘human sexuality’ and ‘sexual activity’ and when the sponsor of the bill admitted on the floor of the House that he wrote the bill because of kids coming out as gay. Ron DeSantis’s spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, took to social media and declared that anyone who opposed the bill is a ‘groomer’ which is a term used to describe pedophiles and child sexual abusers. This sparked an intense and vile strategy to label anyone who expressed concerns about the bill or support for the LGBTQ community a groomer and a pedophile. The use of this despicable and lazy strategy to deflect from indefensible actions is not unique to Ms. Pushaw. Joseph McCarthy once said of anyone who questioned him or his witch hunt against communists and homosexuals "If you want to be against McCarthy, boys, you've got to be either a Communist or a cocksucker.” Joseph McCarthy may be dead, but his spirit is alive and flourishing in Florida.
The decades of relentless and cruel actions taken against the LGBTQ community have never been about ‘protecting children’. Children have been used as pawns in an attempt to make the spread of anti-LGBTQ hatred more palatable and to accuse those who stand against these efforts of not caring for the safety and well-being of children. One can look no further than a few weeks ago to understand that the present-day plight against the LGBTQ community has nothing to do with protecting children. On the same day that Anheuser Busch released an ad featuring a trans activist, the Baltimore Attorney General released a 400+ page report on how the Catholic church covered up the sexual abuse of at least 600 children and teens by more than 150 clergy, church staff, and church members over a period of six decades. We all know which of these events created a day's long, nationwide backlash of disgust and outrage among those supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation in the name of ‘protecting kids’ and which one didn’t even make a blip on their radar. During legislative debate, Republican Representative Webster Barnaby called transgender people and their allies 'demons', 'imps', and 'mutants'. Republican Senator Jeff Holcolm stated that 'our terrorist enemies hate homosexuals more than we do.' Children are being sexually abused, and the majority of their abusers are white, heterosexual men. Some children are starving. Some children are homeless. Some children are ill with no healthcare. Some children are failing in school. Some children are committing crimes. Some children are suffering from mental health issues. Some children are dealing with disabilities. There are many things adversely affecting our children today; none are due to the LGBTQ+ community. None are the result of drag shows or Drag Queen Story Hour or Pride Parades. None are the result of books that have gay characters or illustrations of gay couples.
The legislation being introduced and passed in multiple states that prohibits gender affirming care in minors has also been presented as an effort to protect children, yet many of these states are also banning this care for adults. When Florida’s Surgeon General released guidelines against gender affirming care in minors and adults, the authors of the studies he cited to justify his guidelines stated that he misrepresented the studies. Numerous reputable national and international academic medical societies have openly and repeatedly stated their opposition to these laws. These organizations include the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the United States Professional Association for Transgender Health, the American Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association. Many officials included our Governor have pointed to Sweden claiming the country has banned gender affirming care for minors, but this is a lie. Sweden restricted hormone treatment to minors who experience gender dysphoria prior to puberty and makes exceptions for minors during or after puberty on a case-by-case assessment. The arguments being made against gender affirming care are clearly not being done in good faith or for the health of children. We believe government should stay out of decisions regarding gender affirming care for both minors and adults, and we oppose the bills that interfere with these decisions.
The issue of transgender women in sports has been described as one of fairness, but this argument too rings hollow especially in light of the efforts to ban gender affirming care. There are studies that indicate that any athletic advantage a transgender woman may have is likely dependent upon pre or post puberty transition and the particular sport. This issue is likely not as black or white as most on either side wish it to be. We believe that discussions and decisions regarding trans women participating in sports should be focused on individual sports and all available data and studies should be thoroughly reviewed and considered.
Our current Governor and Republican legislators have chosen to revitalize Florida’s disgraceful history of targeting the LGBTQ community using the same lies, smears, and false justifications. The current attacks against our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are outrageous, disheartening, and void of all humanity and decency. Bigotry is a human characteristic that has withstood the test of time, but do not grow weary our queer friends, for it is the abhorrent characteristics of a few that bring out the glorious and loving characteristics of many.
We love you. We stand by you. We support you. We will fight for you.