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‘Don’t Say Gay’: Controversy Surrounding Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill Continues

Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis passed the Parental Rights in Education bill or what opponents call 'Don't Say Gay' Bill (Image: Reuters)

Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis passed the Parental Rights in Education bill or what opponents call 'Don't Say Gay' Bill (Image: Reuters)

The controversy surrounding the bill has now caught the attention of international media, LGBTQIA+ activists and celebrities

The Parental Rights in Education Bill which was passed in Florida has led to widespread debate across the US political spectrum.

The bill passed by Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature says that ‘classroom 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.’

The bill was given a go-ahead by the Florida governor Ron Desantis – widely expected to lead the Republican presidential bid in the 2024 elections –  and has caught the attention of international media as well.

While Republicans claim that the bill allows parents to have a greater say into what in their child’s education and to protect young students from “mature” content, Democrats have argued that the bill endangers the safety and mental health of LGBTQIA+ students who ofted face discrimination, depression and feelings of self-harm and suicide.

Republican lawmaker Dennis Baxley said that students in kindergarten should not be taught such topics at an early age. “These topics (sexual orientation or gender identity) are not suitable for K through 3… I know parents are very concerned about the departure of the core belief systems and values,” Baxley said.

Democrat lawmaker Lauren Book lashed out at Florida lawmakers during the discussion in the Florida Senate earlier this week. “Florida’s educators are not indoctrinating young children with age-inappropriate or developmentally inappropriate curriculum. They’re not secretly pushing the gay agenda, the trans agenda, the woke agenda. It’s just not happening,” Book was quoted as saying by news agency Florida Politics.

Some in the far-right and right-leaning political circles claim that introducing such curriculum is meant to indoctrinate children. Democrat senator Shevrin Jones, a Miami Gardens Democrat who is openly gay lashed out at Republicans and highlighted that a lawmaker dubbed the bill as ‘don’t-turn-my-son-into-a-daughter-bill’. He was referring to the president of the Florida Family Policy Council.

Republican lawmaker Ileana Garcia’s comments also garnered criticism when she said that gay is not a permanent thing. “Gay is not a permanent thing. LGBT is not a permanent thing,” Garcia was quoted as saying by news outlets. Criticism was also directed at Christina Pushaw, the press secretary of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Pushaw said opponents of this bill are ‘groomers’, a reference to ‘paedophiles’. “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children,” Pushaw wrote.

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first published:March 12, 2022, 11:06 IST