Update: Legislation known widely in Florida as the "don't say gay" bill is about to become the "don't say gay" law. The state Senate on Tuesday passed the measure, which restricts what teachers in grades kindergarten through third can tell students about gender identity or sexual orientation, per the Hill. Advocates say such discussions should be left to parents. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign. Our original story from Feb. 24 follows:
LGBTQ advocates expressed outrage Thursday after the Florida House approved legislation prohibiting classroom discussions about sexual orientation in the state's elementary schools. Educators would be prohibited from speaking about gender issues that aren't "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students," according to the bill; opponents say it puts young LGBTQ people at greater risk of mental illness and bullying. The measure now goes to the Senate, which is working on a similar bill, the Hill reports. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has indicated support for such a law.
Supporters said the measure, which opponents call the "Don't Say Gay Bill," is intended to help parents, who would have more authority to take school districts to court over the issue. The measure's sponsor said it's only fair to set clear expectations for teachers and school districts. "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," said Republican Rep. Joe Harding. Opponents have criticized the vagueness of the language, but Harding has said it would not prohibit discussions about students' families or LGBTQ history, such as the 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
The wording says the bill applies only to kindergarten through third grade, but Democratic Rep. Michael Grieco said he didn't buy that those would be the only students affected. "I'm going to vote down on this bill, and I am going to say 'gay' until I am rainbow in the face," he said Thursday. One advocacy group, Equality Florida, said the bills in the state's legislature "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." PEN American, a nonprofit that advocates free speech, said another eight states are considering 15 bills to limit classroom discussions about LGBTQ identities, per NBC News. (Read more LGBTQ stories.)