Florida Rep. Joe Harding sponsored the 'Don't Say Gay' bill
Florida Rep. Joe Harding (Photo: Twitter)

Florida’s House of Representatives yesterday passed its controversial and widely criticized ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill.

It was approved by a 69-47 vote (the Florida house has 78 Republican reps. versus 41 Democrats).

The bill, HB 1557, was introduced by  Rep. Joe Harding (R-Williston). It will now advance to the Senate. Governor Ron DeSantis has already indicated his support for the legislation.

Aimed at schools, the bill seeks to ban the discussion of LGBTQ topics mainly at the primary grade level. However, it will also limit discussion when “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students”.

Its supporters claim it will empower parents to be more engaged with their kids’ education.

One of those to vote in its favor was Republican Rep. Tom Fabricio, who argued during the debate, “Little children do not have a fully developed prefrontal cortex. They don’t have that ability to understand things at a certain level.”

Related: Rep. Joe Harding wants kids to be outed to parents, but that’s not even the worst thing about him

HB 1557’s many detractors say it will have a huge impact on LGBTQ kids, the kids of LGBTQ parents, and the education of all children.

Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida, blasted the legislation.

“Every child has a right to speak honestly about their lives, a right to have access to a history that is honest and includes them, and a right to library books that reflect and include who they are.

“What we are seeing is the systematic erasure, or elimination of those resources for young people and a gag order imposed on educators.”

Cathryn M. Oakley, State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, said, “The ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill is a politically motivated, shameful effort to attack and endanger LGBTQ+ students. The Florida Senate must vote this discriminatory piece of legislation down.”

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden slammed the bill as “hateful” in a tweet.

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On Monday, Rep. Harding introduced an amendment to the bill. This stipulated that if gay kids disclose their sexuality to a teacher, the educator has a responsibility to pass that information on to parents within six weeks. They must do so even if they think the action may result in the child facing “abuse, abandonment or neglect”. That amendment was dropped on Tuesday after much criticism.

Although laws banning the discussion of LGBTQ topics in schools are not uncommon, this one goes further and allows parents to sue school districts and seek damages if they believe the law has been broken.

If it passes through the Senate, it will likely become law in July.

Besides HB 1557, the Florida House also yesterday passed its so-called ‘Stop WOKE Act’ (HB 7). This legislation prohibits any teaching that could make students feel they bear personal responsibility or anguish for historic wrongs because of their race, color, sex or national origin.

In effect, it silences any discussion around Critical Race Theory in the classroom. It also extends to colleges and to training programs in workplaces.

HB 7 passed by a 74-41 vote.

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