Florida Moves Forward in Approving Its Controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

The bill restricts discussions between teachers and students related to sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom

This Thursday [Feb. 24], Florida took another step toward getting its controversial bill — the Parental Rights in Education Bill, known as “Don’t Say Gay” — off the ground. The state House of Representatives, which has a conservative majority, has approved the bill, which restricts discussions between teachers and students relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. The bill also allows parents to take legal action against establishments if teachers violate this regulation, which now goes to the local Senate for a vote.*

The bill states that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity 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 flood of criticism from organizations in favor of LGBTQ+ rights comes down to the fact that the text does not specify what is classified as “age appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate.”

Democrats also take issue with the bill allowing parents to sue a school district if a teacher violates the law. They say that this will cause the teachers to be scared to talk to their students. Furthermore, by not specifying what is meant by “appropriate,” parents can subjectively define what teaching framework their children should receive when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Parental Rights in Education Bill passed the Florida House with 69 votes in favor and 46 against. All the Democratic legislators rejected the proposal, and seven Republicans joined them. The Florida governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, has not specified whether he will officially sign it into law if both chambers approve the bill. The proposal has prompted intense debate and has become a battleground between the White House and DeSantis, who is running for reelection.

DeSantis, one of the strongest members of the Republican Party, believes it is “entirely inappropriate” for teachers to talk about these topics with their students. According to the governor, teachers are telling children: “Don’t worry, don’t pick your gender yet.” President Joe Biden responded to the Republican with a post on Twitter: “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,” the president wrote. “I have your back,” he added.

The bill, presented by Republican Rep. Joe Harding, has been the most talked-about of 15 similar bills submitted to state legislatures. They all intend to limit access to books and materials that address topics related to the LGBTQ+ community.

*Editor’s Note: The Florida Senate voted to pass the bill Tuesday, March 8.

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