Florida Senate Rejects Reasonable Amendments to "Don’t Say Gay" bill, Full Vote Looms
Florida Senate Rejects Reasonable Amendments to Don’t Say Gay, Full Vote Looms
Equality Florida Prepares for Legal Battles to Protect Students, Parents, and Teachers
TALLAHASSEE, FL — One day after Governor Ron DeSantis’ spokesperson unleashed an anti-LGBTQ tirade on Twitter, accusing opponents of the hateful Don’t Say Gay bill of being pedophiles, the Florida Senate rejected reasonable amendments designed to mitigate the harm the bill will do to LGBTQ students and families. Equality Florida is prepared, should the Don’t Say Gay bill endanger a single child, silence a single teacher, or negatively impact a single family, to join legal action against the state of Florida to challenge this hateful legislation.
Lawmakers filed numerous amendments aimed at removing overtly anti-LGBTQ language from the legislation and focusing it more narrowly on classroom instruction on sexual activity. Republican Senators struck down each one. In questioning, the bill’s sponsor Senator Dennis Baxley was unable to define the words “sexual orientation” and Republican leadership and the Governor have repeatedly wrongly equated acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ people with “teaching sex”. The unamended Don’t Say Gay bill will now likely receive a final Senate vote tomorrow.
“One day after the Governor’s office said that quiet part out loud, that they believe the existence of LGBTQ people to be a threat to children, the Florida Senate rejected reasonable amendments to this legislation and refused to mitigate its harm,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director. “Even as thousands of students walked out of class in protest and hundreds lined the halls of the Capitol building to demand that lawmakers address the damage being done by this bill, the Senate doubled down on the Governor’s political agenda and the anti-LGBTQ extremism at the heart of the legislation. Now Senators face a final choice: will they vote with LGBTQ students and their families or will they side with angry mobs hurling anti-LGBTQ slurs at those asking for nothing more than toma safe place to go to school without having to hide who they are.”
This comes as opposition to the Don’t Say Gay bill grows. Last week, seven House Republicans joined Democratic colleagues in voting no after the bill sponsor similarly refused to consider reasonable amendments to mitigate the damage of the legislation. Among those Republicans were those who work most closely with Florida’s children, including Representative Vance Aloupis, who heads one of the state’s largest child welfare organizations, and Representative Rene Plasencia, a high school educator and coach. The bill has been opposed throughout the process by major groups representing the interests of youth and their families, including the Florida Parent Teacher Association, the American Medical Association, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, pediatric psychologists, and teachers and school officials from across Florida.
The bill’s fast-tracking comes as students led massive school walkouts across the state, with thousands leaving class and hundreds marching on the Florida State Capitol building chanting loudly, “We say gay!” It also comes as polling shows a majority of Floridians oppose the bill and recognize the danger it poses and harm it is already inflicting. A recent poll found that 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth -- and 66% of all LGBTQ youth -- say that recent debates about the rights of LGBTQ people have negatively impacted their mental health. That is a population of students already more likely to experience depression, anxiety, bullying, sexual violence, and attempt suicide before graduating high school due to bullying, harassment, and lack of support at home or school.
Senator Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican and staunch opponent of equal rights, has compared LGBTQ community to “drunks” and “drug abusers,” and has opposed anything that would “affirm” the existence of gay people and families. It, alongside others like the Stop WOKE Act, is part of Governor DeSantis’ broader agenda to censor speech, muzzle teachers, propagandize curriculum, police Floridians in classrooms and doctor’s offices, restrict civil liberties and level attacks on marginalized communities as he jockeys with former President Donald Trump for loyalty from the right-wing base ahead of the 2024 Presidential election cycle.
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