Florida Senate Committee Passes ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

Lily Holm

Last Tuesday, the Florida Senate Education Committee passed a bill that LGBTQ advocates have dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. The bill, HB 1557, states that a school district “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” It also adds that parents would be able to sue and seek compensation for legal fees. The bill still must pass through the Senate and House, but Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, signaled his support for the bill, leading many to predict that he will sign the bill. If DeSantis signs it, the bill will go into effect July 1.  

Though the White House has previously avoided commenting directly on anti-LGBTQ bills, President Biden took to Twitter to denounce the bill, saying, “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. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”

This tweet followed an earlier statement from the White House. “Every parent hopes that our leaders will ensure their children’s safety, protection, and freedom. Today, conservative politicians in Florida rejected those basic values by advancing legislation that is designed to target and attack the kids who need support the most,” a White House spokesperson said in an emailed statement. The spokesperson also noted that “This is politics at its worst, cynically using our students as pawns in political warfare. At every step of the way, Republicans have peddled in cheap, political attacks, instead of focusing on the issues parents, students, and teachers care about.” 

This Florida bill is not an isolated action, according to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2021 alone, more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced, at least 17 were enacted into law. So far this year, 160 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced or rolled over from the previous year. Many of them, including bills in Kentucky, would bar certain school policies or classroom discussions, while others target transgender students by barring them from playing on school sports teams or using the school facilities that align with their gender identities.