Endorsement of AHA Statement Condemning Exclusion of LGBTQ+ History in Florida

May 17, 2023

The OAH has, along with more than forty organizations, endorsed the American Historical Association’s May 16, 2023 statement opposing the exclusion of LGBTQ+ History in Florida. The Florida Department of Education’s recent ruling extends the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and “would eliminate almost entirely the history of LGBTQ+ people from the Florida social studies curriculum.”

The OAH has previously spoken out against efforts to limit the teaching of LGBTQ history in May 2021 and March 2022.

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Statement Opposing Exclusion of LGBTQ+ History in Florida

The American Historical Association condemns the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE)’s recent ruling banning educators from “provid[ing] classroom instruction to students in grades 4 through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is . . . expressly required by state academic standards.” No such mandates appear in current American or world history standards. To comply with this clause, teachers would have to exclude from their curriculum significant aspects of the nation’s history.

Consider the implications of this radical legislation—radical in the sense of the reach of state government into local classrooms. Extending Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, the FLDOE would eliminate almost entirely the history of LGBTQ+ people from the Florida social studies curriculum. And to eliminate that history is to compel a distorted and incomplete teaching of the past. Neither law nor policy will change the fact that LGBTQ+ people have always existed. This erasure flattens the story of America’s long Civil Rights Movement by ignoring the 1969 Stonewall Riots and the pathbreaking 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. It bars students from examining cultures, religions, and societies—including Indigenous nations within Florida—that have embraced traditions of gender fluidity and homosexuality as meaningful categories of social identity and organization. Its effort to silence and segregate LGBTQ+ voices cannot but cripple our understanding of the richness and diversity of the human experience.

Historical aspects of “sexual orientation or gender identity” include heterosexual and cisgender peoples, too, and we wonder how the state might regard historical explorations of womanhood, masculinity, family relations, gender roles, even the marriages of John and Abigail Adams or Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. As the AHA explained in its 2021 Statement on LGBTQ+ History Curriculum, “Students who attend schools that include LGBTQ+ history will therefore not only be better informed citizens but will also be better prepared to engage with the complexities of everyday life.” The new policy’s distressing imprecision combined with threats of license revocation and termination for those who violate it will chill good history teaching in the state.

We ask that the FLDOE reconsider its vague and destructive policy of censorship, and instead encourage the teaching of accurate and inclusive histories of the United States and the world. These histories necessarily include LGBTQ+ people. Simple respect for the past in all its complex humanity demands that we give attention to these experiences.

The following organizations have signed on to the statement:

African American Intellectual History Society 
American Academy of Religion 
American Anthropological Association
American Association of University Professors 
American Society for Environmental History
American Society for Theatre Research
Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Association of Ancient Historians
Association of University Presses
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
California Scholars for Academic Freedom
College Art Association
Coordinating Council for Women in History
Czechoslovak Studies Association
Dance Studies Association 
Florida Freedom to Read
German Studies Association
History of Science Society
Immigration and Ethnic History Society
John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education 
Latin American Studies Association
Linguistic Society of America
National Association for Diversity Officers in Higher Education
National Council for the Social Studies 
National Council on Public History
Network of Concerned Historians
North American Conference on British Studies 
Oral History Association 
Organization of American Historians
PEN America
Polish American Historical Association 
Radical History Review
Reacting to the Past Consortium 
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
Social Welfare History Group
Society for Cinema and Media Studies 
Society for Ethnomusicology
Society for French Historical Studies
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations 
Society for Historians of the Early American Republic 
Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Society for Music Theory 
Society for Textual Scholarship
Society for US Intellectual History 
Society of Architectural Historians 
Southern Association for Women Historians
Urban History Association 
Western History Association
Western Society for French History 
The Woodhull Freedom Foundation
World History Association