Story at a glance
- A Florida Senate committee on Monday passed the Parental Rights in Education bill — known to its critics as “Don’t Say Gay” — by a vote of 12-8. The controversial legislation now moves to the Senate floor.
- Under the bill, educators would not be allowed to speak to primary school students about certain LGBTQ+ topics that are not considered “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
- Senators opposed to the bill on Monday said it was a solution looking for a problem.
Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill on Monday passed its final state Senate committee. It now moves to the Senate floor for a vote.
Officially known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, the controversial legislation was passed last week by the House in a 69-47 vote. The state Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday advanced the bill by a vote of 12 to 8.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signaled support for the bill but has not said 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.”
Under the bill, parents would also have greater authority to take legal action against school districts they believe to be in violation.
State Sen. Dennis Baxley (R), the sponsor of the bill’s companion legislation, on Monday during the committee meeting said he is “a guy who doesn’t hate anyone.”
“I am really amazed at how something so simple turned into this,” he said, adding that the bill’s anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment has been “fabricated by the media.”
“This does one simple thing – it decides who’s in charge,” he said. “I’m not trying to demonize anybody, I’m not trying to negate the values of teachers. I’m just trying to come back to center point. Parents must be in charge of these decisions.”
Other Florida senators disagreed, arguing that the bill is not only discriminatory, but also a solution in search of a problem.
“I don’t ever remember telling my young students, ‘don’t worry, you don’t have to pick a gender,’” state Sen. Lauren Book (D), a former educator, said Monday. “I don’t remember teaching LGBTQ propaganda from secret lesson plans. And I don’t remember breaking any Florida law by telling a parent that they couldn’t review my lesson plans.”
“It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen then, and it doesn’t happen now,” she added. “Florida educators are not indoctrinating young children with age inappropriate or developmentally inappropriate curriculum. These are professionals.”
Young Floridians traveled from as far as South Florida — roughly seven hours from the state capitol in Tallahassee — to testify against the bill, with emotional public testimony lasting for more than an hour.
State Sen. Jeffrey Brandes (R) on Friday had filed an amendment to remove “sexual orientation and gender identity” from the bill and replace it with “human sexuality and sexual activity” to make the bill more related to sex education, which is already heavily regulated in Florida, according to Equality Florida.
Brandes’ amendment ultimately failed in a vote largely along party lines.
LGBTQ+ rights groups on Monday condemned the Senate committee’s passage of the bill.
“Removing LGBTQ people and topics from public schools will only work to further shame a group of young people who already face disproportionate rates of discrimination, bullying, and suicide attempts,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, said in a statement.
“LGBTQ students and families deserve to see themselves reflected in the classroom. What they don’t deserve is stigma and censorship from the government.”
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