Florida Senate passes anti-LGBTQ+ 'Don't Say Gay' bill

The bill was passed by a vote of 22-17 on March 8, bringing it only one step away from becoming law.

People carrying LGBTQ+ banners at a protest. Florida Senate passed the 'Don't Say Gay' bill.
Image: Via Unsplash - Denin Lawley

Yesterday, March 8, the Florida Senate has passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by a vote of 22-17. The introduction of the bill has caused students’ protests to break out all over the country.

The official name of the legislation is Parental Rights in Education bill and under the guise of giving parents control over their children’s upbringing, it will prohibit “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity”. LGBTQ+ activists are worried that it will completely ban discussions on queer identities and issues since violations of this law would allow parents to sue school officials and teachers.

After going through the Senate, the bill will now go on to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has previously expressed his support for the bill and is therefore expected to sign it into law. When, earlier this week, he was asked whether he was in favour of the bill, he replied with the following statement: “We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their children to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their curriculum.”
Should he sign, the bill will go into effect on July 1.

The rhetoric of the parent’s right to have control over their children’s education has been the leitmotif of the majority of the Republicans’ arguments during the whole discussion on the bill. Senator Danny Burgess defended it by saying that “This bill says parents your right to raise your children does not end when they walk into a classroom. This bill recognizes that parents are not the enemy.” 


Another argument in favour of the bill was brought forward by Senator Dennis Baxley who, when asked why the law focused on sexual orientation and gender identity instead of other arguably delicate topics such as drugs and suicide, said it was his opinion that kids these days are “experimenting” too much and are coming out just for the celebrity status.

The debate in Senate also featured a speech by Florida’s first and only openly gay Senator, Shevrin Jones, who addressed his colleagues by saying: “To those who think you can legislate gay people away, I’m sorry. You cannot. I think you should legislate to protect them.” He then added, “So I ask you all, whatever this bill is supposed to do, let this bill do that…but please, do no harm.”

Democrat Senator Tina Polsky also spoke out against the bill, stating: “What we really need to be doing is teaching tolerance, caring, loving, anti-discrimination, anti-bigotry. Tell me how this bill does that. Tell me how this bill is helping us create kind, giving, tolerant adults. I don’t see it. I see it as exactly the opposite.”

While this unfolds in Florida, in another US state Trans youth are being stripped of their rights without even the need to pass legislation. After Texas Senator Gregor Abbott ordered an investigation on parents who allow Trans minors to access gender-affirming medical care, claiming it is child abuse, the devastating impact on the lives of Trans children is beginning to emerge.

Earlier this week, the Texas Children’s Hospital pulled all hormone therapies in an attempt to “safeguard our healthcare professionals and impacted families from potential criminal legal ramifications”. Parents are now scared to seek out medical care for their Trans kids because they do not know the scope of these investigations and what they might entail.

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