Bill restricting teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation heads for final stop in the Florida Senate
A bill that restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public school classrooms is set for a hearing in the Florida Senate today. It's the last stop before the bill could be sent to the Governor to sign, and opponents fear it will make life more difficult for LGBTQ+ students.
The Parental Rights in Education bill, which opponents call the ‘don’t say gay’ bill, prohibits classroom instruction on gender or sexual orientation “through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
It also allows parents to sue if they believe schools are violating the law.
Joél Junior Morales, the foundation manager with Contigo Fund, a Central Florida organization that supports the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities, said he fears the "erasure of LGBTQ+ people.
"We have come so far. And it seems to me like now, this community is be politicized, right, where we should be moving forward in a affirming space that everyone feels inclusive, and what this is telling our youth that are growing up, that you know, they're not valid, they shouldn't learn about like orientation and gender."
Morales said he struggled to find his identity growing up, and when he finally came out to his mother, he was disowned. He said he experienced homelessness, and he's worried legislation like this will contribute to higher rates of homelessness and suicide among LGBTQ+ youth.
"I also feel particularly bad for parents who may be a same same gender loving family. What happens to those parents? Can the children not talk about their parents, their heroes, their icons, who they look up to every day, they can't mention them in school?"
On the other hand, adds Morales, "a lot of times parents are not affirming, right? They're not as accepting, right? Because there's still a lot of work to be done when it comes to this. So these bills, like the ‘don't say gay’ bill, it's just adding to that and perpetuating the stigma that we face every single day.”
Morales said if the bill passes, organizations like his will have to work harder to ensure LGBTQ+ youth are supported.
Orlando state representative Anna Eskamani, a Democrat who opposes the bill, said she is "fully committed to continue to put pressure on the Florida Senate" to stop or delay the bill.
“You're going to see the stories of those who oppose the bill, you're going to hear the concerns from Democratic members and hopefully be able to persuade some of the Republican members to understand that this is dangerous to the people of Florida, and it's not a bill designed to actually solve a problem. It's actually good to create more problems.”
Ocala Republican Denis Baxley, who is sponsoring the Senate bill, has said it is designed to put parents in control of their children’s education.