NCAA Logo via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, there has been much media attention about the Parental Rights in Education bill, which Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has promised to sign soon.

What does this bill say? “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.”

Opponents have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” law — wording that is not included in the bill. Media sites have picked up the moniker and used it when discussing the bill. Regardless of whether one is for or against the bill itself, it’s interesting and sad to watch the deliberate rebranding by the Democrats and propagation of the rebrand by media outlets. While we should encourage debate about issues, we should not take stands based on slogans without reading the bill itself. Unfortunately, that is what is happening now.

“If you are out protesting this bill, you are by definition putting yourself in favor of injecting sexual instruction to 5-, 6-, and 7-year-old kids,” DeSantis said this week. “I think most people think that’s wrong. I think parents, especially, think that’s wrong.”

While it’s fine to oppose this bill, opponents should read the bill first and be able to articulate what they don’t like about it. While members of the news media are busy propagating the new catch phrase, they have given scant attention to another bill signed by DeSantis.

He recently signed SB 1054, titled the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act. Hukill was a Florida Republican legislator who died in 2018 of cervical cancer. The bill requires Florida high schoolers to take a half-year class in personal finance that would include “instruction or discussion” in the following areas: “Types of bank accounts offered, opening and managing a bank account, and assessing the quality of a depository institution’s services. Balancing a checkbook. Basic principles of money management, such as spending, credit, credit scores, and managing debt, including retail and credit card debt. Completing a loan application. Receiving an inheritance and related implications. Basic principles of personal insurance policies. Computing federal income taxes. Local tax assessments. Computing interest rates by various mechanisms. Simple contracts. Contesting an incorrect billing statement. Types of savings and investments. State and federal laws concerning finance.”

This is a lot of material to cover, but it will give Florida graduates an advantage over graduates from states where there is no financial literacy requirement.

DeSantis made news this week when he issued a proclamation declaring University of Virginia swimmer Emma Weyant the “rightful winner” of the NCAA 500-yard freestyle swimming competition.

Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania, had beaten Weyant by 1.75 seconds. “By allowing men to compete in women’s sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud,” DeSantis tweeted. “In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota’s Emma Weyant as the best women’s swimmer in the 500y freestyle.”

While Thomas might be following the guidelines for NCAA competition after transitioning, a glance at the pictures of Thomas and the second and third place winners at the medal ceremony might give you pause. Recent changes in her testosterone levels have not undone the body changes that Thomas had experienced during the almost two decades that she lived as a biological male.

I first wrote about fairness in sports in 2019 after Ana Paula Henkel, a four-time Olympic volleyball player from Brazil, wrote an open letter to the International Olympic Committee. She wrote about the importance of acceptance of transgender people in society but raised concern about including into women’s events people born as men. “The heedless decision to include biological men, born and built with testosterone, with their height, their strength and the aerobic capacity of men, is beyond the sphere of tolerance,” she wrote. “It represses, embarrasses, humiliates and excludes women.”

Read that again and look at the NCAA medal ceremony picture one more time. Thomas towers over the other two competitors.
As a society, we must be able to discuss, question and talk freely about complex issues without being labeled as hateful. Such labels only lead to suppression of speech. Free speech is a cornerstone of our country and, if not exercised, will fall by the wayside.

Acceptance is great. But we have to make sure that, by accepting one group, we are not putting others at a disadvantage.

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