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Florida House Passes Dangerous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Amid Protests and Controversy

Florida House Passes Dangerous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Amid Protests and Controversy

Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in the state’s primary schools.

The legislation — titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, but dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — will now head to the state’s Republican-held Senate, where it is expected to pass. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is running for re-election and is widely considered to be a potential 2024 presidential candidate, has previously signaled his support for the legislation and is expected to sign it into law.

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Speaking to lawmakers on the Florida House floor, Rep. Joe Harding, the Republican who introduced the bill, said the measure is about “empowering parents” and improving the quality of life for the state’s children. Harding has also been sharing messages from his critics out of context on his Twitter account to portray himself as the victim, rather than the victimizer.

 

Opponents of the bill spoke on the House floor about the potential harm it could inflict on the state’s LGBTQ youths, citing the population’s harrowing mental health struggles. A national survey from the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and intervention group, found that 42 percent of LGBTQ youths seriously considered attempting suicide last year. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youths who were surveyed seriously considered suicide, it also found. Separately, the Trevor Project found that LGBTQ youths who reported having at least one LGBTQ-affirming space had lower rates of attempting suicide.

Thursday’s 69-to-47 vote comes after weeks of national outrage over the measure, which has grabbed the attention of international newspapers, Hollywood actors, and the White House. It also coincides with similarly transphobic legislation in Texas.

Harding has repeatedly stressed that the bill would not prohibit students from talking about their LGBTQ families or classroom discussions about LGBTQ history, including events such as the 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub, a gay club in Orlando. But critics have said that the broad language of the legislation could open districts to lawsuits from parents who believe any conversation about LGBTQ people or issues to be “inappropriate”.

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In addition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing in Florida, there are 15 bills under consideration in eight states that would limit speech about LGBTQ identities in classrooms, according to PEN American, a nonprofit group that advocates free speech. Three states passed similar bills last year — commonly referred to as “no promo homo” laws — that allow parents to opt students out of any lessons or coursework that mention sexual orientation or gender identity, according to GLSEN, an advocacy group that aims to end LGBTQ discrimination in education.

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