Controversial 'Don't Say Gay' bill passes Florida House

The Florida House version of the so-called "Don’t Say Gay" bill passed in a 69-47 party line vote Thursday.

The Parental Rights in Education Bill (HB 1557) is sponsored by State Representative Joe Harding (R-Williston) and prevents teachers from talking about gender identity and sexual orientation with students. 

The bill passed after weeks of opposition from Democrats and LGBTQ-advocacy groups. 

The bill says in part that "instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

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An especially polarizing amendment to the bill failed this week that would have forced teachers to alert parents about their child's sexual orientation, if that information was disclosed by the student.

Despite keeping that measure out of the full bill, LGBTQ advocates say the bill will further stigmatize LGBTQ people and students.

"If we are prohibiting discussion around sexual orientation, are we therefore prohibiting discussion around people being gay?" Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) asked Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee voted 13-7 to approve the bill along party lines.

Harding said restricting sex- and gender-related instruction in younger grade levels is appropriate.

"I would also say that you could apply that to straight (sexual orientation). Again, we’re talking about kindergarten through third grade, children as young as 6 years old," Harding said.

A Senate version of the bill also has received initial committee approvals, but has not reached the full Senate.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.