LGBTQ History Month proposal attracts homophobic discourse, activists say

A Miami-Dade School Board member’s resolution to recognize October as LGBTQ History Month attracted activists from openly anti-LGBTQ groups.

Andrea S. Pita Mendez, 17, the school board’s student advisor, said she was very scared during the school board meeting on Wednesday, which included a hostile audience.

Fatima Chaiken, a foster mother, and the Miami-Dade County Council Parent Teacher Student Association’s vice president of advocacy and legislation said many felt dejected.

“I am very saddened today to see some groups and some people spewing hate. It’s about kindness. It’s about love. It’s about unity. It’s about bringing our community together,” Chaiken told the crowd later adding, “Keep it classy, ladies. Enough!”

Black-clad members of the Proud Boys made their presence known. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization, classified it as an “extreme group” with a “general hate” ideology.

School Board chair Perla Tabares Hantman’s repeated requests to maintain the rules of decorum went unheard so many times that security had to intervene. School Board member Luisa Santos, who represents District 9, said she was outraged by the misbehavior.

School Board member Marta Pérez, who represents District 8, accused The Christian Coalition, a conservative advocacy group, of “fear-mongering” while campaigning against the H-11 action proposed by School Board member Lucia Baez-Gellerr, who represents District 3.

Tabares Hantman, School Board vice chair Steve Gallon III and six other School Board members — Pérez, Santos, Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Lubby Navarro, Mari Tere Rojas, and Christi Fraga — voted against H-11 citing conflicts with controversial state law.

Baez-Gelle said the academic aspect applied to Supreme Court cases in 12th-grade classes and parents would be able to opt-out to stay in compliance with state law. She also said Miami-Dade County Public Schools doesn’t have an LGBTQ curriculum.

That did not appease Eulalia Maria Jimenez. She was among the opponents who said H-11 violated Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Parental Rights in Education law, which critics referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill since it prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten to third grade.

“This is indoctrination; this is not history,” said Jimenez, who introduced herself as the chair of Moms for Liberty Miami-Dade, a therapist, and a mother of six.

A trans woman was among the supporters of H-11who said there were members of “hate groups” in the audience that were using words such as “indoctrination” to “dehumanize” the LGBTQ community. The homophobic discourse included a man who brought up “Satanism.”

Anthony Verdugo, the executive director of The Christian Family Coalition Florida, said the organization of over 100,000 “fair-minded” voters asked the board to vote against the H-11 resolution.

“Parents do not send their children to school for eight hours a day and they do not sign up for ideology,” Verdugo said.

Patrick Harrington, who introduced himself as the father of a five-year-old, described H-11 as “odd and inappropriate” and something that is going to introduce “sexual topics.” He said he believes that every person has human dignity and characterized being LGBTQ as a personal decision.

“I believe that there is a lie that is being fostered in our current culture, and we see it over and over, that if someone disagrees with the behavior that means they hate you,” Harrington said adding, “That’s irrational and just flat out wrong.”

Eladio Jose Armesto, the chairman of the Florida Democratic League, said H-11 was problematic and said there were “valid and legitimate fears” that it would “give rise to abuse, bullying, invasion of privacy, sexual grooming” and “gender confusion or dysphoria.”

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