Florida’s Board of Education has approved the expansion of the state’s infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, effectively banning discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity across all grade levels.
The approval on 19 April came at the request of Republican governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to launch a presidential campaign in the near future and has backed several anti-LGBTQ+ bills during his tenure.
The proposal is set to take effect after a procedural notice period that lasts about a month, an education department spokesman told AP.
Lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades four through 12 will be banned entirely, unless they are required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction which students can choose not to take.
In a joint statement with the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director at Equality Florida, said the expansion is “part of the Governor’s assault on freedom”.
“Free states do not ban books,” he continued. “Free states do not censor entire communities out of the classroom. Free states do not wage war on LGBTQ+ people to score cheap political points for a man desperate to be President. This policy will escalate the government censorship that is sweeping our state, exacerbate our educator exodus, drive hardworking families from Florida, and further stigmatize and isolate a population of young people who need our support now more than ever. Shame on the DeSantis Administration for putting a target on the backs of LGBTQ+ Floridians.”
What is Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill?
‘Don’t Say Gay’ is the nickname given to the Parental Rights in Education law, which was signed by DeSantis in March 2022.
It restricts “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
New research from the UCLA School of Law confirmed that the legislation has already had an impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ people in the state.
The data, which was released in January 2023, found that 17 per cent of LGBTQ+ parents had already taken the necessary actions to move elsewhere.
Almost nine out of 10 also expressed concern over the effects the legislation could have on their family.