WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has denounced a bill being advanced by Florida Republicans that would ban the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.
The bill orders that schools “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in primary schools “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” The bill does not offer definitions on what would be appropriate.
Conservative advocates have argued the bill advances “parental rights in education” by allowing parents to sue public schools they believe are discussing LGBTQ issues should the bill become law. On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his support for the bill.
Opponents have called it “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that would create a more hostile environment for LGBTQ students in the state. The bill would build upon a 2021 law dubbed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” by its proponents, which bars government agencies from interfering with a parent’s right to “direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health” of their children.
The Biden administration has come out strongly against the proposal on social media.
“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community – especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill – to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” President Joe Biden wrote in a tweet on Tuesday that added to criticism tweeted out by the White House’s account. “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”
“This will kill kids,” Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and a former teacher, said in criticizing the bill on Twitter last month. “You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in.”
At an event Monday in Miami, DeSantis, a Republican, said some schools have been “hiding” classroom lessons from parents and discouraging students.
An analysis from the Florida House of Representatives found that some of the state’s counties, like Hillsborough, Broward and Palm Beach, have policies that say it’s inappropriate for educators to tell a parent about their child’s sexual or gender identity without the child’s consent. The analysis found such policies would conflict with the proposed law.
“They need to teach them science, history. We need more civics and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, what makes our country unique, all those basic stuff,” DeSantis said. “The larger issue with all of this is parents must have a seat at the table when it comes to what’s going on in their schools.”
Four states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas – already have similar laws on the books banning the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, according to GLSEN, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
Seven states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Oregon – have laws that promote LGBTQ issues in school curricula.
By Matthew Brown | USA TODAY