MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – South Florida students held walkouts and protests against Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill Thursday, which lawmakers passed earlier this week and which the governor is expected to sign into law.
Students at MAST Academy in Key Biscayne walked out of class at 1:20 p.m. in protest of the bill, and students at Pembroke Pines Charter School did the same at 2 p.m.
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.
“Being that zero, nada, none of our educators in the entire state of Florida teach about sexual orientation to any child in k-3, the malicious and absurd intent of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is evident,” United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez Mats said in a statement. “This is an attack on teachers and students who may be gay or have gay family members. The homophobic and extremist agenda put forth by the GOP Florida legislature aims to harm one of the most vulnerable communities in our student body.”
Just two Republicans voted “no” to the bill on Tuesday following days of the passionate protests within the state capitol.
“It’s just treating us LGBTQ youth and adults as well as a political pawn because we all know that they don’t care and they are just trying to gain points for certain supporters,” said Kamilah Gurdian, a sophomore at Mast Academy who organized the student protest at the school.
“It’s been so inspiring to see students taking to the streets and taking action,” said Andrea Mercado of Florida Rising.
Mercado spoke at a rally Wednesday outside of the Miami office of Florida Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Miami).
“Because she is taking votes that do not represent the values of families here in Miami-Dade County,” Mercado said of Garcia. The Republican lawmaker is facing growing backlash over recent remarks that she said on the Senate floor.
“Gay is not a permanent thing. LGBT is not a permanent thing,” Garcia said.
Bravo Network host Andy Cohen reacted to Garcia. “Sweetie, with all due respect, it’s permanent, trust me,” said the openly gay talk-show host.
In a video that Cohen posted on Twitter, he said that he believes that the legislation is solving a problem that doesn’t exist.
“There is not a mass conspiracy of kindergarten teachers who are plotting to teach children to be gay,” Cohen said.
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.”
The full bill can be viewed below: