Pete Buttigieg thanked LGBTQ+ teen Zander Moricz for his “voice and adovacy” in the fight against Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.(Paras Griffin/Getty for Essence)
US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a heartfelt letter to a teen activist who is part of a lawsuit challenging Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
Zander Moricz gained widespread media attention in May for his earnest graduation speech. The openly gay teen spoke about his curly hair instead of using the word “gay” when discussing his activism and highlighting the impact of the state’s anti-LGBTQ+ law.
Moricz also led a ‘Say Gay’ walkout at Pine View School in Sarasota County, Florida and is the youngest of the public plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
The teen revealed on Twitter that he recently received a letter from Buttigieg, thanking Moricz for his “voice and advocacy”.
“After Chasten and I saw your graduation speech earlier this year and heard about your appearance at the Department of Education, I wanted to be sure to personally thank you for your voice and advocacy,” Buttigieg wrote.
“Your combination of wit and courage has reverberated across the country in ways that will benefit people you’ll never even meet.”
— zander moricz (@zandermoricz) August 22, 2022
Pete Buttigieg added he was “mindful” that his service as the “first openly gay Cabinet Secretary” was only possible thanks to the “activism and advocacy” of those who came before him.
He believed Moricz’s example will “open doors for many others who now look up” to the teen as he begins his “path forward following [his] graduation” from high school.
Moricz thanked Buttigieg for his letter on Twitter, saying the “fight for Florida has only begun”.
The Florida teen delivered his original speech about his LGBTQ+ activism before the department of education. Education secretary Miguel Cardona tweeted a video of Moricz’s uncensored speech and said it was important for adults to listen “when students speak”.
Zander Moricz wasn’t allowed to deliver the original valedictorian speech he wrote for his Florida high school graduation because it included references to his LGBTQI+ activism. So, I invited him to deliver it at the U.S. Dept. of Education. When students speak, we must listen. pic.twitter.com/eXrof3naPi
— Secretary Miguel Cardona (@SecCardona) July 15, 2022
Moricz is among several plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms across the state. The anti-LGBTQ+ legislation was signed into law by Republican governor Ron DeSantis in March.
LGBTQ+ rights groups, individual students and families filed against the state over the law and described it as an “unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence and erase LGBTQ+ people in Florida’s public schools”.
In February, Pete Buttigieg condemned the reviled legislation as dangerous for sending a message to queer kids that there is “something wrong with them”. He also warned it would have a detrimental effect on LGBTQ+ youths’ mental health.
“And the reason is that it tells youth who are different or whose families are different that there’s something wrong with them out of the gate, and I do think that contributes to the shocking levels of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth,” Buttigieg said.
He added it should be appropriate for a kid of any age to be able to discuss their “mom and mom or dad and dad or whatever family structure” they live with.
“That’s part of what it means to be pro-family, is to be pro-every family,” Buttigieg added.