Story at a glance
- Florida’s House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would ban certain discussions of LGBTQ+ topics in primary school classrooms.
- It now heads to the Florida Senate, where a similar legislation is already being discussed.
- LGBTQ+ advocacy groups immediately condemned the bill immediately following its passage in the House.
The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that would ban certain discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.
Florida’s House passed the Parental Rights in Education bill — known to its critics as “Don’t Say Gay” — on Thursday in a 69-47 vote. It now moves to the Senate, where a similar piece of legislation is already being debated.
Florida Gov. DeSantis (R) has signaled support for the bill, but has not indicated whether he would sign it if it reached his desk. Should the bill become law, Florida educators would be barred from speaking to primary school students about certain LGBTQ+ topics that are not considered “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
Parents would also be given greater authority to take legal action against school districts.
Proponents of the bill on Thursday continued to argue that it merely seeks to strengthen the rights of parents.
“I believe in the idea that creating boundaries at an early age of what is appropriate in our schools — when we are funding our schools — is not hate,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Joe Harding (R), said during the vote. “It’s actually providing boundaries, and it’s fair to our teachers and our school districts to know what we expect.”
But those against Harding’s bill called it a hateful and needless attack on the state’s young LGBTQ+ population, which already faces greater risk of mental illness, self-harm and suicide.
“I’m going to vote down on this bill, and I am going to say ‘gay’ until I am rainbow in the face,” state Rep. Michael Grieco (D) said Thursday.
Pro-LGBTQ+ groups immediately condemned the bill’s passage in the House, calling it a piece of “extreme legislation” that seeks to erase LGBTQ+ people and history from classrooms.
“Despite overwhelming public outrage, polling data underscoring immense unpopularity with voters, and hours of testimony from LGBTQ families, Republican legislators voted to pass the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and ‘Stop WOKE’ Act in the Florida House. If signed into law, these bills will have disastrous impacts on classrooms and workplaces,” the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Florida said in a statement immediately following the vote. “They will turn Florida into a surveillance state and give the government broad license to censor conversations about American history, the origins of racism and injustice, and the existence of LGBTQ people.”
A recent poll from the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at the University of North Florida found that 49 percent of Floridians oppose the legislation while only 40 percent support it.
Amit Paley, CEO of the LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project, on Thursday said lawmakers in Florida should be more focused on supporting LGBTQ+ students and their families instead of “pitting parents against teachers and erasing the LGBTQ community from public education.”
“When lawmakers treat LGBTQ topics as taboo and brand our community as unfit for the classroom, it only adds to the existing stigma and discrimination, which puts LGBTQ young people at greater risk for bullying, depression, and suicide,” he said.
Harding earlier this week withdrew an amendment that would have required school principals to inform a student’s parents of their sexual orientation within six weeks of learning they were not straight.
In a statement, he had said that “the exaggeration and misrepresentation in reporting about the amendment was a distraction; all the amendment did was create procedures around how, when and how long information was withheld from parents so that there was a clear process and kids knew what to expect.”
“Nothing in the amendment was about outing a student. Rather than battle misinformation related to the amendment, I decided to focus on the primary bill that empowers parents to be engaged in their children’s lives,” he said.
The Florida House also on Thursday passed the “Stop WOKE Act,” which would remove lessons about gender identity and race from public schools that may make students feel “discomfort.”
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