Don’t Say Gay Bill in Florida

Anastasia Carlon, Staff Writer

On Thursday, February 17th, Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in the state’s primary schools. The legislation titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, but dubbed by critics the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, heads to the state’s Republican-held Senate, where it is expected to be passed. Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is running for re-election, has previously shown his support for the legislation and is expected to sign it into law

Speaking to legislators on the House floor, Representative Joe Harding, the Republican who introduced the bill, said the measure is about “empowering parents” and improving the quality of life for the state’s children.

“Creating boundaries at an early age of what is appropriate in our schools, when we are funding our schools, is not hate,” Harding said. “It’s actually providing boundaries, and it’s fair to our teachers and our school districts to know what we expect.” Harding has repeatedly stated that the bill would not prohibit students from talking about their LGBTQ families or classroom discussions about LGBTQ history, including events like the 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub, a gay club in Orlando. But critics have said the broad language of the legislation could open districts to lawsuits from parents who believe any conversation about LGBTQ people or issues to be inappropriate.

In an impassioned speech on the House floor, Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat who is gay, told lawmakers that he purposefully wore a rainbow Pride ribbon upside down on his lapel “as a symbol that LGBTQ community in Florida is in distress.”

“We are in distress because this bill is yet another attack on our community,” Smith stated. “This bill goes way beyond the text on its 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.”

Thunder Ridge Sophomore. Ethan Lebel says, “I don’t understand why Florida needs a bill like that.