Respect Equality

Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill signed into law

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux/Associated Press)

    Story at a glance

    • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law.
    • Under the law, primary school teachers will be barred from classroom instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity, while educators of all grade levels will be prohibited from instruction on those topics that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for their students.
    • While “Don’t Say Gay,” officially titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, has been denounced by opponents as hateful, supporters have argued that the legislation seeks to strengthen the rights of parents and shield children from classroom “indoctrination.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday signed the state’s controversial Parental Rights in Education bill — known to its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — into law. It will take effect July 1.

DeSantis during a signing ceremony at Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, Fla., said he’s seen “classroom materials about sexuality and woke gender ideology” and “libraries with clearly inappropriate, pornographic mature materials for very young kids.”

The governor, standing behind a podium reading “Protect Children” and “Support Parents,” also claimed to have found at least six school districts in Florida had policies to “cut parents out of decisions regarding their child’s well being.”

Classical Preparatory will not be affected by the governor’s action because it is a charter school.

Under the now-law, introduced in January in the state House of Representatives, classroom instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity will be restricted in the state’s primary schools. Educators of all grade levels are prohibited from engaging in instruction on those topics in a manner that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for children.

While international media outlets, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, Hollywood actors and even the White House have condemned the law as hateful and discriminatory, supporters have repeatedly argued that the legislation aims to strengthen the rights of parents and protect young children from being “indoctrinated.”


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Desantis several times called instruction around gender identity and sexual orientation the “gender bread man,” a reference to an educational tool.

“If you think that a parent sending their kid to first grade should have the gender bread man in there talking about being a different gender, say that and try to make the case for it, but just be honest about where you’re coming from,” he said.
 
“This is trying to sow doubt about kids about their gender identity. It’s trying to say that you know, they can be whatever they want to be. This is inappropriate for kindergarteners and first graders and second graders. Parents do not want this going on in their schools,” he added.
 
During a reading of the bill in the Florida Senate earlier this month, state Sen. Dennis Baxley (R) suggested that schools may be guilty of “social engineering” by educating students about sexual orientation and gender identity — neither of which he was able to accurately define, referring to sexual orientation as “male and female.”
 
In a statement following the state legislature’s passage of the bill, Conservative Political Action Conference Chairman Matt Schlapp congratulated Florida lawmakers for “ensuring that school bureaucracies could not indoctrinate young students with their liberal talking points.”
 
“The Florida legislature has stepped up to protect students,” he said. “Instead of being force fed the left’s points on gender and sex, young students in Florida can focus on learning how to read and write.”

In a series of tweets, DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw earlier this month likened the bill’s opponents to pedophiles, claiming that, without the bill, kindergarten to third-grade classrooms will continue to act as a breeding ground for “grooming.”

“The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill,” Pushaw wrote. “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.”

Florida Democrats have pushed back on those claims, noting that a number of failed amendments they say would have made the bill less discriminatory toward the state’s LGBTQ+ youth were found unfriendly.

“Well, that settles that,” state Sen. Gary Farmer (D) said this month as his amendment, which would have replaced one of the bill’s requirements that educators teach students the benefits of monogamous “heterosexual marriage” with simply “marriage,” failed. “We’ve got an admission as to what this bill is all about. Taking this language out guts the bill, so we don’t have to engage in any fantasy about what the true intention in this bill is anymore.”

LGBTQ+ advocacy and human rights groups following DeSantis’ signature condemned the law.

“This law doesn’t solve any problem that exists. Instead, HB 1557 has been weaponized by the Governor’s office to launch a bigoted smear campaign to attack and defame LGBTQ Floridians with baseless accusations of grooming and pedophilia,” Florida Rep. Carlos Smith (D), the first openly gay Latino person elected to the Florida legislature, said in a statement.

“HB 1557 does absolutely nothing to prohibit conversations about sex, sexual activity, or sex ed with young children, despite its proponents claims,” he said. “The bill’s intentionally vague language leaves teachers afraid to talk to their students and opens up school districts to costly and frivolous litigation from those seeking to exclude LGBTQ people from any grade.”


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