Florida Gov. DeSantis signs controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill into law

Governor indicated he supported bill when it passed Florida Legislature

SPRING HILL, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill banning sexual identity discussion in schools.

The governor signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill — also dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — during a news conference Monday at a charter school in Spring Hill.

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“I think the last couple years have really revealed to parents that they are being ignored increasingly across our country when it comes to their kids education,” DeSantis said prior to the signing. “We have seen curriculum embedded for very, very young children — classroom materials about sexuality and woke gender ideology. We’ve seen libraries that have clearly inappropriate, pornographic materials for very young kids. And we’ve seen services that were given to students without the consent or even knowledge of their parents across the country and we — unfortunately, that’s happened here in the state of Florida.”

DeSantis then held up examples of materials he said were found in Florida schools which he said were objectionable and would be prohibited under the new law, including a diagram called the “Genderbread Person” — a diagram which is used to help explain gender identity — and an excerpt from a children’s book called “Call Me Max” — which is about a transgender boy.

“This is inappropriate for kindergarteners and first graders and second graders. Parents do not want this going on in their schools,” DeSantis said.

The bill prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms and also bars teaching those topics in other classrooms in ways that are “not age-appropriate.”

The bill prohibits schools from not notifying parents about a student’s “mental, emotional or physical health or well-being,” which could include requiring schools to “out” LGTBQ students to parents.

The bill does make allowances if that notification could lead to a child being abused, abandoned or neglected. The bill also allows parents to sue school districts if they believe a school violated the bill.

Shortly after the signing, critics of the bill began railing against DeSantis’ decision to sign the legislation.

Orlando’s onePULSE Foundation nonprofit, established in the wake of the Pulse nightclub tragedy, issued the following statement:

“Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is hateful, discriminatory and bigoted and will further stigmatize, marginalize and isolate LGBTQ+ youth and their families. We denounce this unconscionable and shameful law and will continue to #SayGay and stand in solidarity with all LGBTQ+ Floridians to help ensure that every student – especially those most vulnerable and in need of support – feels safe, welcomed and included at school. The importance of safe spaces – like Pulse nightclub was for Orlando’s LGBTQ+ community – cannot be overstated. It is our hope that the National Pulse Memorial & Museum will serve as such a critical space and educational forum in the future.”

“Being #LGBTQ and caring about LGBTQ+ kids is not a leftist agenda,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani wrote on Twitter. “It’s about compassion and caring about every type of family and kid, no matter who they are or who they love.”

“I’m not saying #DeSantis is a homophobe -- I’m simply saying the homophones (sic) think he’s a homophobe,” State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith wrote online. “And he wants 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙞𝙧 vote…not just in FL, but across the country in a GOP Presidential primary. That’s why he signed #DontSayGay. Not to help Floridians, but to help himself.”

Disney released a statement on the new law:

The bill takes effect on July 1, 2022.

Load Doc by Thomas Mates on Scribd

Students across Central Florida performed walkouts in protest of the bill, arguing it discriminates against gay and transgender students.

”The district supports our students’ ability to peacefully voice their opinions and are permitted to partake in a protest as long as they follow all school safety guidelines,” Orange County Public Schools said in a statement earlier this month regarding the walkout.

Disney workers planned walkouts during their breaks every day earlier this month to protest CEO Bob Chapek’s slow response in publicly criticizing the bill.

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About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.