The contentious “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida is making its way through the state legislature, having passed the House Judiciary Committee 13-7 on Thursday.
House Bill 1557, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was the subject of heated debate on Tuesday, according to Florida Politics.
According to The Hill, the bill was first moved forward after being cleared by the House Education and Employment Committee in January. The bill might be voted on by the entire House as early as next week. Meanwhile, in the state Senate, a parallel measure has been proposed.
If passed, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill would restrict how older grades might address sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida’s primary schools.
It also allows parents to sue Florida schools if these talks occur, and it requires schools to notify parents if a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health changes.
“The concern is that there is instruction that could continue to push, and lead to, whether you want to say it’s stress, on that child to have discussion in those ages,”said Rep. Joe Harding, who introduced the bill. “Focus should be on reading and math and the basics that come with being in kindergarten to third grade.”
Many opponents of the bill have called out its vague language, saying that it can be interpreted in many different ways, according to WINK News.
“This bill is a Trojan horse,” said Rep. Mike Grieco, a Democrat. “Comments in this committee and comments from the sponsor of the bill have been that ‘This is limited to kindergarten through third, we’re talking about 6-year-olds’ — but that’s not what the language says.”
Another Democratic representative, Fentrice Driskell, said that the bill’s “anti-gay rhetoric” is “suppressive.”
Equality Florida, a nonprofit LGBTQ+ advocacy group, has slammed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which bans discussion of LGBTQ people or issues in primary grades, would further stigmatize the LGBTQ community, chill efforts to create inclusive school environments, and isolate LGBTQ kids who are already at staggeringly higher risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation than their peers,” the organization said in a statement.
Advocates with the Human Rights Watch have also spoken out against the bill, saying that if the law goes into effect, “Florida is moving in the wrong direction.”
“Teachers should not fear punishment if they celebrate diversity or let kids know that it’s okay to be LGBT,” one researcher with the organization said, “and students should not be cut off from affirming information and support.”