JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Legislation restricting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity is on its way to the governor’s desk after receiving final approval from the Florida Senate Tuesday.
Opponents call the proposal the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, but its supporters reject that characterization.
Specifically, this bill prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and after that, any instruction on those topics must be age-appropriate.
The bill also requires schools to disclose to parents changes in student’s services or monitoring related to their mental, emotional or physical health or well-being, so long as it doesn’t put a student at risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
As the Florida Senate debated the legislation Tuesday morning, two clear positions were staked out.
“Whether you disagree with the messaging or not when it comes to people calling it the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, or you can put whatever title behind it all you want. It hurts people,” said State Sen. Shervin Jones (D-Miami Gardens).
In large part, the disagreement comes down to what kind of message that sends to the LGBTQ community.
“This is not about targeting. This is about rerouting the responsibility back to the parents,” said State Sen. Ileana Garcia (R-Miami).
Democrats argued the bill is a solution in search of a problem.
“Only this time the problem is seeking to fix the very identity of LGBTQ students, parents and teachers. The message this bill sends goes far beyond the words contained in the text,” said State Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation).
Republicans claim the legislation simply codifies existing standards in the state curriculum.
“Sex ed starts in the fourth grade at a basic level. That is when we have decided that children are old enough to start having these conversations as a state. This bill does nothing more than codify that,” said State Senator. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills).
The bill passed on a 22 to 17 vote and heads to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Two Republican Senators, Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Orange Park) broke ranks and voted against the bill.
This past Friday, DeSantis was asked about the bill.
He said it wasn’t his idea but expressed support for the policy.
“How many parents want their kindergarteners to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction?” said DeSantis.
With the governor’s signature, this bill will take effect on July 1.
At that point, parents will be permitted to sue school districts for violations of the law.
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