TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Parental Rights in Education Bill that critics call the "Don't Say Gay" bill was approved by the Florida Senate Tuesday and sent to Governor Ron DeSantis for his signature. The bill passed the Senate by a 22-17 vote.
House Bill 1557 bans teachers in Pre-K through 3rd grade classrooms from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also allow parents to sue school districts if they believe the policy is violated.
The bill's sponsor said it gives parents control and has the votes to pass. But Democrats, LGBTQ activists, and even President Joe Biden have said the bill is harmful, even dangerous, and could cause even more discrimination.
"I didn't call the bill the no gay whatever bill," Senator Dennis Baxley said. "This has all been fabricated by the media, my friend. This does one simple thing, it decides who's in charge."
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona was quick to condemn what he called a "hateful" bill and even warned the state about federal funding if the new law violates federal civil rights law.
“Parents across the country are looking to national, state, and district leaders to support our nation’s students, help them recover from the pandemic, and provide them the academic and mental health supports they need. Instead, leaders in Florida are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need. The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported.”
Meantime, Equality Florida said if the bill does become law, it will look into suing the state of Florida if they feel the bill "endangers a single child, silences a single teacher or negatively impacts a single family."
The bill states in part: "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 "Don’t Say Gay" bill was just one of several policies opponents were labeling as "censorship" legislation under consideration this year. They also took issue with DeSantis' goal to ban critical race theory in schools and businesses, calling the bill's language too vague, worrying it would chill race education.