Critics Say Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law Would Unfairly Target LGBTQ Kids. A Michigan House Candidate Wants to Bring It Here.

Critics Say Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law Would Unfairly Target LGBTQ Kids. A Michigan House Candidate Wants to Bring It Here.

A young girl at a Pride Rally. Photo by Nicole Glass / Shutterstock

By Kaishi Chhabra

April 6, 2022

Pediatric psychologists nationwide have warned Florida’s new law could harm the mental health of LGBTQ+ children, who are already more likely to be bullied.

Need to Know

  • Jon Rocha, who’s running to represent parts of Eaton, Barry, Ionia, and Kent counties in the Michigan House, said he will introduce “Don’t Say Gay” legislation  if elected. 
  • Critics argue the legislation creates an unsafe environment for LGBTQ children. 
  • Endorsed by Donald Trump, Rocha was spotted in the Washington, DC, crowd on Jan. 6, 2021, when the attack on the US Capitol took place. He’s also rallied in Lansing for a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election.

MICHIGAN—Despite nationwide criticism around a controversial Florida law that targets LGBTQ-friendly discussions, a GOP candidate for Michigan House of Representatives says he plans to introduce a similar bill in Michigan if he is elected, Michigan Advance reported last month. 

Dubbed as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, the recently signed legislation bars teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade or, as the law states, “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” 

In other words, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis put it: Teaching kindergarteners that “they can be whatever they want to be” is “inappropriate” for children.

Jon Rocha of Kalamazoo County agrees. He told Michigan Advance that his proposal would ban “discussion, or dissemination of materials, that involves sexual orientation, gender identity, or any sexually explicit content, in Kindergarten through 4th grade.”

“Elementary kids should be learning about math, science, history and how to read and write — radical, sexual indoctrination from adults pushing personal agendas has no place whatsoever in the education of Michigan’s youngest students,” Rocha said in a statement to the Advance.

Rocha is running to represent Michigan’s 78th District in the state House, which includes parts of Eaton, Barry, Ionia and Kent counties. Currently, his website includes no information on how he plans to champion other education issues beyond banning critical race theory in Michigan public schools, which is not even taught in K-12 schools. 

Pediatric psychologists nationwide have warned Florida’s new law stigmatizes LGBTQ community and could harm the mental health of LGBTQ+ children who are already more likely than cisgender and straight students to be bullied and attempt suicide.

In fact, the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Transgender Survey of 2015 reported that 40% of transgender respondents had attempted suicide, which is nine times the rate of the general population. Experts also say the need for mental health services for children have skyrocketed during the pandemic.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, the first openly gay person to be elected as statewide official—told the Advance the legislation would be “one of the worst things that you can do for LGBTQ kids.”

The language of the law is overly broad and subject to interpretation, critics argue, and teachers as a result may choose to avoid the subjects entirely at all grade levels for fear of being sued. 

Rocha doubled down on his stance in a Facebook post, calling Nessel’s comments in the Advance story “disgusting lies.”

A Marine Corps veteran and a former football coach, Rocha has been a vocal critic of the Whitmer administration, even earning former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. 

Rocha was spotted in the crowd the day of the US Capitol attack in Washington, D.C. He also rallied in Lansing last October with hundreds of Trump supporters to launch a ballot drive that would require a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election.

The Michigan primary is scheduled for Aug. 2 and the general election will be on Nov. 8. Rocha will be facing small business owner and citizen lobbyist Gina Johnsen, who filed for the 78th District house seat just last week.

READ MORE: Teacher Bonuses, Better Mental Health Care, Expanded Preschool: Inside Gov. Whitmer’s New Plan to Improve Education


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