Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis has signed the state’s contentious “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law, as LGBTIQ advocates vow to challenge it in court.
The legislation is officially titled the Parental Rights in Education bill. It restricts “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
The bill also mandates school staff effectively out LGBTQ students without their consent, demanding the staff notify parents of any change in a “student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being”.
Parents who believe schools have violated the measures can then sue school districts for damages.
Opponents have dubbed the bill “Don’t Say Gay” because of its broad and vague language. They warn it will limit discussions of sexuality and gender identity at any year level.
They warn provisions will also restrict teachers’ ability to support vulnerable students.
Governor DeSantis signed it into law on Monday at a photo op surrounded by young students. Some held signs reading “protect children, support parents”.
DeSantis accused opponents of “sloganeering and fake narratives” around the legislation and accused them of “supporting the sexualisation of children”.
“We’ll continue to recognize that in the state of Florida, parents have a fundamental role in the education, health care and wellbeing of their children,” he said.
“We’ll make sure parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.”
Opponents to challenge Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in court
But the “Don’t Say Gay” bill previously sparked student-led walkout protests across Florida and condemnation across the US.
Local LGBTIQ group Equality Florida has vowed to challenge the new laws in court.
“At every turn, the Florida Legislature rejected reasonable amendments to this legislation and refused to mitigate its harm,” the group said.
Queer youth suicide prevention charity The Trevor Project said the state’s young people “deserve better” than the “harmful” legislation.
“While I’m saddened to see this harmful bill signed into law, I’m inspired by the outpouring of support for LGBTQ students we’ve seen from parents, teachers, celebrities, and their peers,” CEO Amit Paley said.
“Social support is vital for suicide prevention. I want to remind LGBTQ youth in Florida and across the country that you are not alone.”
‘Hateful’ legislation ‘censors and exclude an entire community’
Furious Florida Democrats have condemned the law. Democrat Carlos G Smith said the “hateful” legislation “doesn’t solve any problem that exists”.
“Instead [the bill] has been weaponised to launch a bigoted smear campaign to attack and defame LGBTQ Floridians with baseless accusations of grooming and pedophilia,” he said.
“DeSantis is attempting to censor and exclude an entire community of people from our schools for his own political gain.”
He said the bill’s “intentionally vague language leaves teachers afraid to talk to their students.”
“[It] opens up school districts to costly and frivolous litigation from those seeking to exclude LGBTQ people from any year level,” he warned.
Smith vowed that the “battle against #DontSayGay is far from over.”
“To those LGBTQ youth in Florida and around the world struggling to find support, know that you’re loved exactly the way you are,” he said.
“And we’ll continue to fight for you every single day because your lives are worth fighting for.”
Every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom. Our LGBTQI+ youth deserve to be affirmed and accepted just as they are. My Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family — in Florida and around the country.
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 28, 2022
It’s one of more than 300 anti-LGBTIQ bills across US
After the Florida governor signed it into law, the contentious “Don’t Say Gay” legislation will begin on July 1.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, conservatives have put forward over 300 anti-LGBTIQ bills across the United States.
Some of the bill in other states are similar to Florida’s legislation.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.