WESTON, Fla. – Students at Cypress Bay High School in Weston held a “Say Gay” walkout Wednesday morning against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which lawmakers passed on Tuesday and which now moves to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.
Republican sponsors say the Parental Rights in Education Bill is about helping parents control what their children do and learn in school. Critics have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” because of its language in a particular paragraph, which specifies sexual and gender identity may not be in lessons in K through third grades.
“That action alone conveys a very strong message. That there’s something wrong possibly and therefore requires that these children have conversations with their parents at home,” said Orlando Gonzales, Executive Director SAVE LGBT.
There have already been several protests in Tallahassee and cities across the state, as members of Florida’s LGBTQ community feel targeted and ostracized.
Republican State Senator Ileana Garcia is drawing criticism for remarks she made on the floor, regarding the LGBT community, gender and sexual identity.
“LGBT is not a permanent thing and it’s not a bad thing. I have a very good friend of mine, a man who is trans who went thru the whole thing to become a woman. And he still likes women??” said Garcia
Protestors gathered outside her office to express outrage over her words and her vote on the bill itself.
“We deserve better representation. We deserve more from our senators than someone who will get on the floor and go after children for their identity, for who they love. To go after their parents for their identity and who they love,” said a protestor.
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Jose Dotres tweeted a statement on Wednesday concerning the bill:
“Our schools have always been and will continue to be safe spaces for children and employees to be who they are. We are committed to providing a nurturing, inclusive educational environment and promoting a sense of belonging for all students across our district.”
Just two Republicans voted “no” to the bill on Tuesday following days of the passionate protests within the state capitol.
Republican sponsors insist the messaging has been taken over, and that the bill is about helping parents control what their children do and learn about in school.
The house sponsor of the Parents’ Rights Bill, State Rep. Joseph Harding spoke to Local 10 News about the bill on Sunday.
“Nowhere in the bill do we limit them being able to confide to someone at school,” Harding said while appearing on This Week in South Florida Sunday morning. “That’s the biggest misconception of the bill. And it’s just not in the words on the page.”
Before being sent to the Senate floor, the bill was amended to give parents a path to take the issue up with the school before they sue if they have concerns about their child’s welfare.
The bill ensures parents are notified of health changes, allowed access to student records, given prior permissions for health screenings and allows them to refuse school healthcare for their students.
Concerns that fuel the opposition come in a paragraph more than halfway through the bill, which reads:
“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in K through 3rd grade or in a manner that is not age appropriate…”
Florida’s first openly gay senator is South Florida’s Shevrin Jones, who reminded colleagues before the bill was passed that, “I sit in the same room with you and your actions and words matter.”
“I would never say that parents should not have the right to ask what’s going to happen with their child. I’d be crazy to do that,” he said. “But what we have to understand is that there are children who do not come from households that are supportive and loving.”
The full bill can be viewed below: