On Tuesday, the Florida State Senate passed a bill that has been broadly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, aimed at cracking down on sexually explicit curriculum being taught to young children in public schools.
As reported by Politico, the bill now heads to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) for his signature, in a major win ahead of his re-election bid this November. It passed the State Senate by a margin of 22-17, and had previously passed the State House of Representatives by a vote of 69-47.
The bill strengthens parents’ rights regarding the discussion of sexuality in the classroom and forbids teachers from withholding such information from the parents, and outright prohibits the discussion of sexuality and “gender identity” in all public schools from kindergarten through the third grade; the bill only allows for discussions of sex in higher grade levels when it is “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”
Multiple other states are considering similar bills to crack down on the teaching of sexually explicit materials in public schools, as well as outlawing the promotion of “transition” practices for so-called “transgender” students. Legislators in Arizona are working on a bill to prohibit such students from using bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite gender, as well as banning them from competing on sports teams of the opposite gender. Tennessee is considering legislation to ban books from school libraries if they are found to contain “obscene materials or material harmful to minors.”
At a press conference addressing the bill, DeSantis said that his intention is to crack down on the scientifically debunked concept of “transgenderism,” the false belief that there are more than two genders, and that anyone can suddenly change their gender whenever they feel like it. The governor said that such rhetoric leads to schools and teachers “telling kids that they may be able to pick genders.”
“We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum,” DeSantis continued.
State Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Fla.) said on Tuesday that the bill “is not about targeting, [it] is about rerouting the responsibility back to the parents and allowing the children to be children.”
But Democrats insisted, without any evidence, that the bill is discriminatory against homosexuals. Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Fla.) falsely declared that the bill “is a direct attack on Florida’s LGBTQ+ community, and that is not okay.”
“We have to stop couching this as ‘parental rights,’” said State Senator Shevrin Jones (D-Fla.), who is gay himself. “This is a guise for people who do not understand the process, so when you all walk out this door, you will have something in your hand to say ‘we have given you your rights back’ — rights that were never taken away from them.”
The Biden Administration weighed in on the debate after the bill passed on Tuesday, with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stating that “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.”