Florida Could Drastically Expand 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

Florida Could Drastically Expand 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to dramatically increase the scope of the controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill.

The Orlando Sentinelreports DeSantis wants to forbid conversations and "classroom instruction" on sexual orientation and gender identity for all students at any grade level. As the outlet notes, the rule change will require a vote next month by the Board of Education, which is headed by a DeSantis appointee.

The Sentinel reported that ahead of the vote, the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida described it as part of a "larger, disturbing trend" by Florida lawmakers to machinate “every lever of government to censor conversations about LGBTQ people." According to Brandon Wolf, a spokesperson for Equality Florida who spoke with the outlet, DeSantis and Florida lawmakers' goal is to have LGBTQ people "written out of society."

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to an inquiry by The Orlando Sentinel when questioned about the proposed change.

Key to the vote will be members of the aforementioned Board of Education, which is led by appointees of DeSantis and his predecessor Gov. Rick Scott. Manny Diaz, the Education Commissioner, already signed off on the proposed amendment according to documents seen by the Sentinel.

During a hearing Monday, Senator Clay Yarborough said: "Parents have the right and God-given responsibility to guide their children’s upbringing. They should not have to worry their students are receiving classroom instruction on topics and materials parents feel are not age-appropriate."

Still, the bill has been met with fierce opposition since it was first passed in 2022. As classrooms across the state were forced to censor any and all mention of LGBTQ identity — including the removal of any rainbow flag or "pride" themed paraphernalia — teacher vacancies surpassed 5000 in the state. Some teachers likewise resigned over the bill, and many told outlets like Time that the legislation had a "chilling" effect on the classroom, as it opened up the possibility for teachers and school districts to be prosecuted by homophobic and transphobic parents.

Nationally, the news comes amid a sobering wave of state-sanctioned violence against trans people, stoked by Christian evangelical groups and fascist "far-right" organizations. Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice with the ACLU, told PAPER in an interview, “This year is absolutely the worst in volume and scope of the anti-trans bills we are seeing."

Likewise, Strangio said, “Right now we need people to show up in force to stop the escalating legal and cultural attacks on trans people. Regardless of where people live, they should be active to disrupt the harmful and false rhetoric about trans people, our bodies and our health care."