Parents and community members exchanged jabs during a heated six-hour Florida school board meeting Wednesday night that concluded with officials voting against a resolution that would make October LGBTQ History Month.
The Miami-Dade School Board meeting was impassioned, with supporters bringing up the decades of discrimination LGBTQ members have faced—including during the Holocaust—and critics decrying the measure as a “Satanic doctrine.” Even the right-wing extremist Proud Boys showed up to hurl their disgust toward the proposal, the Miami Herald reported.
The district had already passed an initiative last year recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month. This year’s resolution revised that plan by adding key Supreme Court rulings affecting the LGBTQ community to the 12th-grade curriculum. That proposal failed during an 8-1 school board vote.
“LGBTQ is American history,” said Karry Faith, a parent of two students in the Miami-Dade County Public system and resolution chair of the Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs.
“National PTA is ‘committed to the creation of innovative curricula…that support[s] culturally…responsive teaching and learning so that the history of all students—including…LGBTQ groups—is accurately represented and taught,’” Faith said, quoting a statement from the National PTA concerning inclusivity in schools. “PTA also believes that ‘classrooms that celebrate diverse histories…break down existing barriers and create supportive and inclusive schools that encourage students to grow and learn in the safest, most empowering spaces possible.’”
Lucia Baez Geller was the only board member who voted in favor of measure H-11, which would put two landmark Supreme Court cases on the 12th-grade curriculum: Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which protects same-sex marriages, and Bostock v. Clayton County (2020), which found that employers cannot terminate workers for their LGTBQ status.
Before Wednesday’s lengthy meeting, Geller said students would be able to opt out of the social studies lesson, the Miami Herald reported. But that did nothing to stop meeting attendees from debating the measure for more than three hours.
Scott Galvin, a former student of Miami-Dade and current member of the North Miami Council, said he witnessed various social movements in the area over the years and insisted that fighting for LGBTQ progress should be no different.
“I was a young man in the early ‘80s when the Mariel Boatlift began and hundreds of thousands of people began to leave an oppressive dictatorship only so they could find a better life,” he said. “The Anglo community that I was growing up in were so disdainful, so hateful. …We shouldn’t have tolerated those types of bigoted thoughts. And as you consider this item this evening, please keep in mind LGBT history is the history of this community and every one of us.”
University of Miami professor Alberto Cairo also spoke in favor of LGBTQ History Month and the teaching of the landmark Supreme Court rulings, saying it “harms absolutely no one.”
“At the same time, it benefits everyone,” he said. “LGBTQ history is American history. It is like so many other histories in this country: a history of struggle, progress, and setbacks.”
He added that people who oppose LGBTQ history from being taught “distort” the truth, similar to how histories of Black and Jewish people in the U.S have been warped.
Multiple members of the audience noted that LGBTQ people were persecuted during the Holocaust, explaining that they were ostracized when they were instructed to wear pink triangles on their attire to signify who they were.
Mental health counselor and educator Lauren Shure also addressed board members, who were sitting at a table that displayed a National Suicide Prevention Month banner.
“LGBTQ youth disproportionately experience discrimination, violence, which places them at higher risk for things like depression, suicide, even homelessness and substance abuse,” Shure said. “Establishing LGBT[Q] History Month for Miami Dade County Public Schools provides protective factors for all youth and beyond. It sends the message that our LGBTQ communities, neighbors, colleagues, and youth matter—because they do.”
“Having representation matters,” said Christina Ganem, president of the Gay Straight Alliance at IPrepatory Academy. “Children need representation. They need to know they’re not alone. …Representation saves lives.”
Despite a massive wave of support behind the measure, critics showed up in droves to rally against the initiative, according to the Herald. Some accused it of limiting parents’ rights, being part of a “leftist agenda,” or equivalent to “Satanic doctrine and Satanic practice.”
Self-proclaimed taxpayer Marsha Hertig said she showed up to encourage voters to “do the right thing.”
“Do not allow this leftist agenda to be passed that violates the conscious rights of both students and parents of faith and their beliefs regarding …marriage and sexuality,” she said during the crowded meeting.
Anthony Verdugo, founder of Christian Family Coalition of Florida, asserted that schools should “be neutral, objective, balanced, fair, and impartial.”
“This proposal,” he said, “undermines not only the right to parent, but also religious liberty and conscience protection.”
Members of the Miami Dade County Public School Board did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment Thursday.