Future Voter Suppression: The Real Reason Behind NC’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law

Amy Galey at the NC General Assembly

Recently, the NC Senate passed it’s own version of Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would not only restrict discussion of LGBTQs in school curricula and allow parents to challenge what they perceive as “harmful” school materials, but also force teachers and school staff to “out” students that might engage in discussions about their own struggles with gender or sexuality.

The bill, sponsored and being talked up by state Senator Amy Galey of Alamance County, seems to be a on fast track for passage in the legislature where the NC GOP gained an expanded majority in the mid-term election.

While many observers - and even LGBTQ and allied organizations themselves - have focused on the damage this law would do to LGBTQ young people and portray it as a “bone” for evangelical conservatives in the GOP base, there’s a more simple reason that the leadership of the GOP is promoting this anti-LGBTQ law.

In October 2022, Politico reported on research done by Bowling Green State University and the Human Rights Campaign, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That study shows a steady increase in the number of LGBTQ voters in the coming decades - 1-in-7 by 2030 and nearly 1-in-5 by 2040.

The study notes that LGBTQ voters hit a historic high in the 2020 general election - about 7 percent of voters, up from six percent in the 2018 midterms.

Ahead of the midterm election this year, 11 percent of the voting-eligible population identifies as LGBTQ. The projections are a conservative estimate, the researchers noted, because more people continue to come out as they age.

The report suggests that momentum is driven by the growing number of youth voters and more people coming out in younger generations. Nationally, Gen Z has the highest share of those who are LGBTQ — 27 percent — followed by millenials, with 16 percent who identify as LGBTQ. In 2020, youth turnout was 11 points higher than the previous presidential election, and 17 million young people have turned, or are turning, 18 between the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms.

If you think the NC GOP leadership doesn’t realize this, you’re kidding yourself. They have consultants who look at demographics and trends just like anyone else.

This generational shift is particularly significant in states like North Carolina. Statewide and many district-level elections for the legislature are decided by fairly thin margins right now - in the November mid-term, for example Republican Ted Budd defeated Cheri Beasley by just three points in the U.S. Senate race.

Currently, the NC GOP is suppressing Black and minority voters using several tactics - gerrymandering, reducing voting locations and access to absentee and early voting, and barriers such as voter ID requirements.

NC’s “Don’t Say Gay” law represents a new tactic against LGBTQ voters - suppressing a voting block even before it becomes eligible to vote.

The law sends a clear message to NC school kids. If you are “coming out” as LGBTQ, you will be outed to your parents and others by school officials. You will not see mention of the existence of LGBTQ people anywhere in your curriculum in elementary to high school. You will not see any books mentioning anything positive about LGBTQs in your school library.

If you are gay or have LGBTQ parents, you will be ostracized. If work in a school, you offer support to an LGBTQ student, you will face setbacks in your career and possible legal ramifications.

By the time you graduate high school, if you are LGBTQ, you will learn that being LGBTQ will subject you to danger and harassment. You will not find support if you “come out”; you will be shamed by bigots in your community. If you're in a rural area, you'll probably leave for an urban "big city", diluting the electorial voice of LGBTQs and their allies in rural areas even more than it's supressed now.

We’ve already seen what happens when LGBTQ young people grow up in this kind of environment. This is what being LGBTQ was like thirty years ago.

It delays the process of coming to terms with your sexuality and gender identity. It prevents you from forming healthy and supportive relationships and friendships with the existing LGBTQ community when you’re in your late teens, twenties or thirties, when you have the potential of being an active, engaged voter, developing habits that can make you a voter for life.

This is voter suppression in the cradle, short-circuiting the development of a larger potential LGBTQ voting block before it starts to coalesce.

This same tactic is being used by the NC GOP and by conservatives in other states in banning of what they consider “woke” curriculum about African-American or Latinx history and experience. It was also used for many years during Jim Crow, erasing racial minorities from the curriculum of public schools.

This isn’t just about white conservatives being “offended” by the truth about slavery or Jim Crow. It’s about setting what young students learn at school in a public setting against what they learn from their own community, sewing seeds of doubt about truth and one’s own place in the contemporary world. It’s designed to make young minority voters feel ashamed of who they are and “separate” from the larger society.

Whether it’s LGBTQs or Blacks, the message is the same - you don’t belong here and you don’t belong in the voting booth.

Florida’s GOP, led by Ron DeSantis, started with a “Don’t Say Gay” law. Now, we are seeing application of that law extended to include felony sanctions against teachers or librarians and use of the legal system to punish LGBTQ businesses and community organizations.

This won’t end with the NC GOP’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. It’s just the beginning.



Erase them

That's the GOP operating model. If you don't like something, make it disappear. Use the power of institutional control to make sure that differences are quashed and that the world looks exactly as it is supposed to look: old white men calling the shots.

Excellent analysis. Scary shit.