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Florida House passes controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill

"Don't Say Gay" bill sparks debate
Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill sparks debate over LGBTQ rights for students, parents 04:14

Florida's House of Representatives passed HB 1557, also known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, on Thursday. The Republican-backed bill, which would restrict teachers and school districts from openly discussing gender identity and topics surrounding sexuality in the classroom, passed 69-47 and now moves to the Florida Senate for further debate. 

If passed, the legislation would go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year. As CBS Miami reports, HB 1557 prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and, in other grade levels, bars discussion that is not "age or developmentally appropriate." It would also allow parents to sue school districts that go against the law. 

Supporters of HB 1557 framed the bill as a matter of parents' rights, arguing that discussions around sexuality can negatively affect students' mental and physical health and well-being. The bill and its sponsors says its goal is to "reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children." 

Critics have called the bill potentially harmful to LGBTQ+ students and children with LGBTQ+ parents.

A kindergarten class Redland Elementary in south Miami-Dade, Florida.  El Nuevo Herald/Getty Images

The bill is one of several recent school-focused pieces of legislation to enter and pass in the Florida House. On Thursday, representatives also passed the "Stop WOKE Act," which would limit how workplaces and classrooms handle discussions surrounding critical race theory

"In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory," Governor Ron DeSantis said last year, announcing his support of the bill. "We won't allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other. We also have a responsibility to ensure that parents have the means to vindicate their rights when it comes to enforcing state standards."

HB 1557 has been heavily criticized since its introduction, and lawmakers amended the bill several times before it arrived on the House floor. On Tuesday, Florida Representative Joe Harding withdrew an amendment that would have required schools to tell parents if students were a different orientation other than straight.

The Human Rights Campaign called the bill "dangerous," and said it could undermine protections for LGBTQ+ children. The White House also condemned the bill, saying it would make growing up harder for kids. 

"I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are," President Biden said in a statement regarding the bill. "I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve."

Other states have also begun introducing bills advocates say are targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ children and families. Following an opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that said gender-transitioning procedures could be considered child abuse under state law, Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to report and investigate parents of children undergoing such treatments.

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