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April 13, 2023
Florida Republican lawmakers are barreling toward passing an expansion of the state’s controversial so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits the discussion of sexual identity or gender identity in Florida public schools from kindergarten to third grade.
The bill, passed last year, is facing an expansion that would broaden the age group affected by the bill from third graders to eighth graders. This means no instruction or discussion of gender orientation or sexual identity would be permitted to take place in any public classroom until high school.
Republican state lawmakers introduced the expansion to the bill in mid-February, not only increasing the grade level affected by the bill but also disallows schools and school districts from making policies requiring transgender students to be referred to by their preferred pronouns. The measure also places restrictions on what gender and sexual identity topics can be discussed in high schools, and encourages teachers to highlight and push heterosexual relationships and abstinence.
Advocacy groups have begun preparations for a fight against the bill’s expansion, having already fought the original bill’s passing in 2022 to no avail. “Kids who identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community will not feel welcomed, loved and cared for, because people who work in our schools will not be allowed to meet them where they are and support them for who they are,” said Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association to The Hill.
The LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Florida began its preparations to fight the expansion earlier this year, calling the efforts to expand the bill “the epitome of the administration’s effort to wage culture wars against academic freedom, parental rights, and diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of a broader strategy to challenge the Governor’s former mentor Donald Trump for a presidential nomination.”
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit last month challenging the Don’t Say Gay bill, saying the plaintiffs had not produced “sufficient facts” to prove the bill was unconstitutional.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: ORLANDO SENTINEL