A controversial bill that would restrict schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity was passed in the Florida House on Thursday.
House Bill 1557, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, requires that schools “[prohibit] classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels” and policies that prohibit “parental notification [and] involvement in critical decisions affecting student’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being.”
The bill also authorizes parents to take legal action against any school that fails to enforce these restrictions.
The House passed the bill Thursday afternoon largely along party lines, with 69 members voting for and 47 against. NPR reports that seven of the nay votes came from Republican lawmakers who crossed party lines to vote with their Democrat colleagues.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it is on the agenda for February 28, 2022. If it passes in the Senate, and is signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, it will go into effect this summer.
Proponents of the bill, which is formally titled, “Parental Rights in Education,” say that its intended to strengthen parents’ rights with regards to their children’s education. Opponents argue that it’s a means to effectively erase LGBTQ+ identity in schools, and that it will further stigmatize children who identify as LGBTQ+.
“Lawmakers should be supporting LGBTQ students and their families and encouraging schools to be inclusive, not pitting parents against teachers and erasing the LGBTQ community from public education,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of the Trevor Project, in a press statement. “When lawmakers treat LGBTQ topics as taboo and brand our community as unfit for the classroom, it only adds to the existing stigma and discrimination, which puts LGBTQ young people at greater risk for bullying, depression, and suicide.”
A similar bill, HB 1834, is also making its way through the Florida Senate.
Although Governor DeSantis has not explicitly endorsed the bill, he told reporters earlier this month that it was “entirely inappropriate” for schools to discuss matters of sexual orientation and gender identity with students.