'Don't Say Gay' bill passes Florida Senate

The bill would ban curricula concerning LGBTQ issues in some Florida classrooms.

March 08, 2022, 1:13 PM

The Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by LGBTQ activists, has now been passed by both the Florida Senate and House. The bill would limit what classrooms can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under this legislation, these lessons "may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

The bill would also allow parents to sue schools or teachers that engage in these topics.

If the bill is ultimately signed into law, it would go into effect July 1. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he supports the bill, though he hasn't explicitly said he will sign it if it crosses his desk.

PHOTO: Florida Sen. Annette Taddeo, center, lends her support to demonstrators on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, on March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Florida Sen. Annette Taddeo, center, lends her support to demonstrators on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, on March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP

LGBTQ activists and advocates slammed the decision to move the legislation forward, saying it will harm queer youth by shunning representation and inclusion from classrooms.

"Let us be clear: should its vague language be interpreted in any way that causes harm to a single child, teacher, or family, we will lead legal action against the State of Florida to challenge this bigoted legislation," said local LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida in a statement.

It also said erasing the presence of the LGBTQ community from lessons implies students should be ashamed or should suppress their gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Every LGBTQ young person deserves to attend a school that provides an inclusive, affirmative environment – not one that aims to erase their existence,” Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project, an organization focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, said in a statement.

Paley added, “We know that LGBTQ youth already face higher risk for bullying, depression, and suicide – and this bill will only add to the stigma that fuels these disparities."

PHOTO: Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, on March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, on March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP

Legislators against the bill argued that students are aware of gender identity and sexual orientation at a young age, and schools should be allowed to offer safe spaces to discuss these topics.

"Instead of coming up with these vague bills, why are we not supporting the most inclusive, tolerant education and, and society that we can?" Democratic state Senator Tina Polsky said during Monday's debate on the bill.

Legislators in support of the bill said that these discussions should be left to the parents.

In a recent interview on ABC News' podcast "Start Here," Republican Florida state Rep. Joe Harding defended the bill, which he introduced. He claimed the bill would not prohibit people from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms, as the bill once stated, but that it would ban curriculum and lessons on it.

"What we're preventing is a school district deciding they're going to create a curriculum to insert themselves," Harding said.

He added, "Families are families. Let the families be families. The school district doesn't need to insert themselves at that point when children are still learning how to read and do basic math."

PHOTO: In this Jan. 11, 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a joint session of a legislative session in Tallahassee, Fla.
In this Jan. 11, 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a joint session of a legislative session in Tallahassee, Fla.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP, FILE

The Biden administration has denounced the bill as anti-LGBTQI+.

"I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community -- especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill -- to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are," President Joe Biden tweeted last month.

Similar bills have been seen in several other states, including Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma and Kansas.

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