Florida's first openly gay state senator cried while debating state's 'Don't Say Gay' bill

click to enlarge Florida's first openly gay state senator cried while debating state's 'Don't Say Gay' bill
Screenshot via Twitter/Equality Florida

Shev Jones knows a thing or two about being forced to keep quiet about his sexual orientation. The state senator from Miami Gardens didn't come out to his family until 2018, when he was 34 years old. In an emotional bit of testimony against Florida's controversial "don't say gay" bill, Jones urged his fellow senators to consider the message they are sending to Florida's youth and the harm they might cause by forcing children to keep their identities hidden.

Jones, whose father is a pastor, said he suffered greatly both keeping his sexual orientation a secret and in the immediate aftermath. He sobbed while recounting a passage from his father's book that said he was disappointed in his son.

“I don't think y'all understand how much courage it takes to show up every day,” Jones said. “Imagine living your life for 30 years and you coming to your parents and you talk about who you are. And you're lying to them about who you are.”

When he came out in 2018, it had immediate effects on his social circle and family.

“I never knew that living my truth would cause church members to leave my dad's church or friends to stop talking to me or families to make jokes about who you are,” he told the Senate.

Jones compared kids being forced to keep quiet to his own life, noting that his late brother never learned who he was fully.

“Some thoughts ran through my mind after I lost my brother because I never got a chance to tell him,” Jones said, before urging senators to rethink their positions. "Like the Hippocratic Oath says, please do no harm.”

The bill ultimately passed along mostly party lines. Two Republicans sided with the 15 Democrats in the state Senate who voted against the act: Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island. Still, the bill passed by a vote of 22-17.

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