The Florida House on Thursday passed an education measure that would prohibit instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, as Republicans disputed a “don’t say gay” moniker that critics gave the bill.
House members voted 69-47 to approve the bill (HB 1557), with six Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. Those Republicans were Chip LaMarca of Lighthouse Point, Vance Aloupis of Miami, Demi Busatta Cabrera of Coral Gables, Rene Plasencia of Orlando, Amber Mariano of Hudson and Will Robinson of Bradenton.
The bill would require that instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity “may not occur” in kindergarten through third grade.
In higher grade levels, the bill would prohibit teaching such concepts in a manner that is “not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” as determined by state academic standards.
The issue has drawn national attention as critics have labeled it the “don’t say gay” bill.
“We call it the ‘don’t say gay’ bill because it prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. But members, this bill goes way beyond the text on the page. It sends a terrible message to our youth that there is something so wrong, so inappropriate, so dangerous about this topic that we have to censor it from classroom instruction,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat who is gay, told House members.
But several Republicans said the measure has been mischaracterized by opponents.
“The bill, plain as day, states that we cannot have instruction … meaning curriculum led by teachers, teaching children ages 5 through 9 about sexual orientation and gender identity. Think about that. Children that are learning how to color inside the lines, that are learning sight words,” Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, said.