Florida House passes 'Don't Say Gay' bill

In recent weeks, the bill has sparked national outrage, with major newspapers, Hollywood stars, and even the White House taking a stand.

Florida House passes 'Don't Say Gay' bill

Florida's House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday. It would ban "classroom discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity” in primary schools.

The legislation, titled "Parental Rights in Education Bill", but critics refer to it as the " Don't Say Gay bill", will now be sent to the Republican-controlled Senate of the state, where it is expected that it will pass. Florida Gov. Florida Governor.

After weeks of outrage, Thursday's vote of 69 to 47 comes after the measure was noticed by international newspapers, Hollywood actors, and the White House.

Rep. Joe Harding (a Republican who introduced the bill to the Florida House), stated that the measure was about "empowering parents" as well as improving the quality life for children in the state.

Harding stated, "Creating boundaries at an earlier age of what is appropriate for our schools, when it is funding our schools is not hate." It's providing boundaries and it's fair for our teachers and school districts to know our expectations.

Harding repeatedly stated that the bill wouldn't prohibit students talking about their LGBTQ families, or from having classroom discussions about LGBTQ history. This includes events like the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando, which was attacked by gay men in 2016.

However, critics claim that the legislation's broad language could lead to districts being sued by parents who feel any discussion about LGBTQ people or issues is inappropriate.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (a Florida Democrat who is also gay) spoke passionately to lawmakers Thursday. He said that he wore a rainbow Pride ribbon upside-down on his lapel "as a sign that the LGBTQ community in Florida was in distress."

Smith stated that the bill was yet another attack on his community. Smith stated that the bill went beyond what it said on its page. It sends a horrible message to our youth about something that is so wrong, inappropriate, and so dangerous that we must censor it from classroom instruction.

On the House floor, other opponents spoke out about the potential damage it could cause to the state's LGBTQ youths. They cited the country's difficult mental health problems.

An national survey by Trevor Project, a LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and intervention organization, revealed that 42 percent of LGBTQ youths had seriously considered suicide. It also found that more than half of the transgender and nonbinary youths surveyed considered suicide.

The Trevor Project also found that LGBTQ youths who had at least one LGBTQ affirming space reported a lower rate of suicide attempts.

Amit Paley, executive director and CEO of the project, stated in a statement that lawmakers should support LGBTQ students and their families. He also encouraged schools to be inclusive and not pit parents against teachers or erasing the LGBTQ community out of public education. It only increases the stigma and discrimination that surround LGBTQ issues and makes our community unfit for school. This puts LGBTQ youth at higher risk of bullying, depression, and suicide.

Democrats also claimed that the text of the legislation makes it difficult to determine which age groups it could be applied to. According to state standards, discussions about "sexual orientation and gender identity" should not be held in kindergarten through third grade.

Rep. Michael Grieco, a Democrat said to fellow lawmakers, "Anyone who claims that this bill only concerns kindergarten through third grade, is either mistaken, or flat out lying."

According to PEN American, a non-profit group that supports free speech, eight states are currently considering 15 bills that would restrict speech about LGBTQ identities in schools. According to GLSEN, an advocacy group that aims at ending discrimination against LGBTQ people in education, three states passed similar bills last yea. These are commonly known as " No Promo Ho" laws. They allow parents to opt out of any lesson or coursework that mentions sexual orientation or gender identity.

Freedom for All Americans reports that conservative state legislators have filed over 170 anti-LGBTQ bills in just two months. This is more than the 139 bills last year. , a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ non-discrimination protections across the country, previously stated to NBC News it didn't keep track of LGBTQ school policy bills last years because it wasn't as widespread as it is today.

The majority of the proposed anti-LGBTQ legislation this year -- at least 92 bills - targets trans people.

Although the White House didn't immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment, President Joe Biden rebuked Florida’s "Don’t Say Gay” bill and promised to "fight for LGBTQ youth safety and protection."

Smith, speaking on the House floor echoed the sentiments of the president.

"I want to make it clear to LGBTQ youth across Florida, the United States and the world that you are loved. You are loved. Smith stated that we will rise every day to fight for your cause because you are worthy of fighting."

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