Florida’s House of Representatives passed the controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by a vote of 69-47 on 24 February.
The legislation, which is officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill, seeks to restrict “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in primary schools.
LGBTQ+ activists are fearful that it could totally limit any discussions or lessons on identity, the community’s history and the oppression it has faced – prompting its ‘Don’t Say Gay’ nickname.
Rep. Joe Harding, the Republican who introduced the bill, told lawmakers on the House floor that it exists to create “boundaries at an early age”.
“Creating boundaries at an early age of what is appropriate in our schools, when we are funding our schools, is not hate,” he claimed. “It’s actually providing boundaries, and it’s fair to our teachers and our school districts to know what we expect.”
Seven Republicans crossed party lines to join Democrats in opposing the legislation, resulting in a vote of 69 in favour and 47 against.
Rep. Carlos G Smith, Florida’s first LGBTQ+ Latino legislator, told the House that ‘Don’t Say Gay’ “goes way beyond the text on the page.”
“It sends a terrible message to our youth that there is something so wrong, so inappropriate, so dangerous about this topic that we have to censor it from classroom instruction,” he continued.
Those who know me, know I always wear @orlandoribbons created by @BenJohansen9 in remembrance of the 49 taken at @pulseorlando. Today, I wore the ribbon upside down as a symbol of the LGBTQ community in distress…because #DontSayGay is yet another attack on our community. 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ pic.twitter.com/rIal6Q3Dns
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) February 25, 2022
Smith also explained that he deliberately wore a Pride ribbon upside down on his lapel in memory of those impacted by the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting and “as a symbol that the LGBTQ community in Florida is in distress.”
The bill will now head to Florida’s Republican-held Senate, where it is expected to pass.
Ron DeSantis, Florida’s current governor who is rumoured to be a 2024 presidential candidate for the Republicans, has heavily indicated that he supports the legislation – making it likely he will sign it into law when the time comes.
“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” Biden tweeted on 8 February. “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”
I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve. https://t.co/OcAIMeVpHL
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 8, 2022