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Get the latest coverage of the 2022 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

The Florida House approves the 'Don't Say Gay' bill that bans LGBTQ classroom discussions

Joe Harding with hand over heart
Rebecca Blackwell
Rep. Joe Harding, right, and other Florida state congressman recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the opening of a special legislative session targeting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Republican-backed legislation, co-sponsored by Harding, in Florida that could severely limit discussion of gay and lesbian issues in public schools is being widely condemned as dangerous and discriminatory, with one gay Democratic lawmaker saying it’s an attempt to silence LGBTQ students, families and history.

The bill bans class lessons on gender identity or sexual orientation for grades K-through-3. Lessons for older kids must be “age-appropriate” as defined by state standards.

The Florida House passed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill Thursday after an emotionally-charged debate.

The measure passed with bipartisan support, picking up one Democratic vote. Seven Republicans voted no on the legislation.

The bill by Rep. Joe Harding (R-Williston) bans class lessons on gender identity or sexual orientation for grades K-through-3. Lessons for older kids must be “age-appropriate” as defined by state standards.

The bill also allows parents to sue school districts if they have complaints related to LGBTQ lessons and an amendment approved by the House earlier this week gives parents an alternative path to address their grievances—through a special magistrate.

“The whole intent is the parent who maybe doesn’t have the resources to hire the attorney to take the cause of action route," Harding said. "They have a path and they have a timeline they can count on to resolve this this problem.”

Harding withdrew a controversial amendment earlier this week that critics said would have forced school principals to out LGBTQ students
to their parents.

But even without the amendment, Rep. Michele Rayner (D-St. Petersburg) said she sees the bill as an attack by some state Republican lawmakers on the LGBTQ community.

“I know y’all are going to vote up on this bill and I’m not going to give you a pass," she said. "Because if you vote up on this bill, if it talks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, and it’s a duck.”

Rayner said she hasn't heard of any problems arising in the state that call for this bill as the solution.

But Rep. Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin (R-Miami) says he’s heard of kindergarteners being taught about LGBTQ people, a lesson plan which he opposes.

“This is happening," he said. "We have children as young as six-years-old being taught radical leftist gender theory. It’s frightening.”

Critics of the measure said they hope the Senate will see there was bipartisan opposition to the bill and decide not to move forward with it. But it’s scheduled to be heard in the chamber’s Appropriations committee next week.

Copyright 2022 WFSU

Sarah Mueller is the first recipient of the WFSU Media Capitol Reporting Fellowship. She’ll be covering the 2017 Florida legislative session and recently earned her master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Illinois Springfield. Sarah was part of the Illinois Statehouse press corps as an intern for NPR Illinois in 2016. When not working, she enjoys playing her yellow lab, watching documentaries and reading memoirs.