The Florida Senate, rebuffing protests from students and LGBTQ activists over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, gave final approve to the legislation on Tuesday, sending the measure to the desk of the Gov. Ron Santis, who’s expected to sign the legislation imminently.
The vote on the measure, titled HB 1557, was 22-17 in the Republican-controlled Senate and largely along political lines.
The legislature gives final approval to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill after two days of debate in the Florida, much of which consisted of emotional appeals from opponents of the bill to pay heed to the damage it would do to LGBTQ+ parents of kids of schools and the signal it would send to LGBTQ+ people they know.
State Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-Miami-Dade) said during the floor debate he’s heard behind the scenes from some lawmakers in the Florida legislature they’re actually not OK with the legislation even though they intend to vote for it.
Yesterday while walking by…I asked a couple members from the other side of the aisle: ‘Are you really okay with this bill?’” Pizzo said. “A couple of you said, ‘No, but I have to be.’ No, you don’t.
No, you really don’t.”
Despite the insistence from supporters the bill is limited in nature, Pizzo said he had asked a colleague whether or not the legislation would bar students from forming an LGBTQ-supportive club and couldn’t get an answer.
“We have failed as a legislature if hundreds of kids stand outside screaming for their rights, and you can’t explain to fifth graders and sixth graders and eighth graders, simple definitions of your own bill,” Pizzo said.
Key portions of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill reveal the potential penalty for the slightest hint of talk about LGBTQ+ kids and families in schools.
Under the legislation schools, schools for children in kindergarten through grade 3 may not engaged in “instruction” about sexual orientation and gender identity, or generally throughout the education system “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
Although the legislation allows for internal review and resolution if a parent brings a complaint against the school for violating the measure, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill also empowers a parent of a student who feel the law was violated to “bring an action against a school district” in court to seek and obtain damages.
Amit Paley, CEO of LGBTQ+ youth group The Trevor Project, has been organizing advocacy against the legislation renewed its opposition to the bill in a statement upon Senate passage.
“Every LGBTQ young person deserves to attend a school that provides an inclusive, affirmative environment – not one that aims to erase their existence,” Paley said. “We know that LGBTQ youth already face higher risk for bullying, depression, and suicide – and this bill will only add to the stigma that fuels these disparities.”
The Biden administration, in the wake of President Biden tweeting out his opposition to the legislation when DeSantis first signaled he’d support it, has indicated the “Don’t Say Gay” bill may violate federal law.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement Tuesday the bill was “hateful” and suggested it may violate Title IX of the Education Amendment 1972, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in schools.
“The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Cardona said. “We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.