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|This article is covering ongoing legislation. The content is subject to change based on new developments.|
The bill officially named Parental Rights in Education, nicknamed the "Don't Say Gay" bill or the "Don't Say Gay or Trans" bill, is anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation passed by the Florida Legislature in 2022. The bill aims to "reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing & control of their children" and enable them to take legal action against school districts. Of particular concern to the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies are the requirements regarding parental notification and consent related to services for children's health and well-being, and Paragraph 3, which states: "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."
Bill supporters claim it is primarily about parental rights; that paragraph 3 prohibits sexual instruction and discussion of sexual activity in grades pre-K through 3; that it is only about younger grades; and that it does not target LGBTQ+ people. Senator Dennis Baxley, (R-Sumter and parts of Lake and Marion, district 12),[note 1] who introduced and sponsored the bill in the Senate, made clear that the bill is focused on "values" regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, citing his personal concerns that too many students are coming out. Representative Joe Harding (R-Levy and part of Marion, district 22) and several co-sponsors moved the bill through the House of Representatives. Only amendments by the bill's sponsors passed, while all 24 amendments attempted by other representatives and senators to change or clarify the bill's language failed.
In 2021, Rep. Harding co-sponsored an act signed into law that prohibits transgender women and girls from participating in school sports in accordance with their gender identity. Sen. Baxley has a lengthy history of making hateful public statements as well as sponsoring and supporting homophobic and transphobic legislation, such as attempting to make it illegal to provide gender-affirming care to transgender teenagers and children. Governor Ron DeSantis also has an anti-LGBTQ+ record and uses hateful language, particularly anti-trans arguments, in his support of the measure. After DeSantis' press secretary made accusations that only groomers and supporters of grooming children would object to what she calls an "anti-grooming bill", other parties adopted her language and directed it against opponents. The governor likewise describes the bill as stopping schools from "injecting woke gender ideology" into classrooms and protecting young children from being sexualized.
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on February 24 and the Senate on March 8. On March 28, 2022, the governor signed it into law during a press conference at a charter school.
We call it the "Don't Say Gay" bill because it prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. But members, this bill goes way beyond the text on the page. It sends a terrible message to our youth that there is something so wrong, so inappropriate, so dangerous about this topic that we have to censor it from classroom instruction.Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, addressing the Florida House of Representatives on February 24, 2022
The bill's sections and paragraphs are the following:
- Section 1:
- School districts must have procedures to notify parents of changes regarding their child's "mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being", which is not defined, and any services they are receiving at school. Personnel will be required to encourage children to discuss their own well-being with their parents or to help the student have that discussion. Districts cannot prohibit parental access to their children's health and education records, which means no part of students' records can be kept confidential from their parents.
- School districts must not have procedures or use student support forms that prohibit personnel from notifying parents about changes regarding the topics in Paragraph 1; these are again not defined. The school district may decide to withhold information "if a reasonably prudent person" would be concerned that the child could be abused, abandoned, or neglected as a result of the disclosure.
- Literally reads: "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 does not define what is considered classroom instruction, what is age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate before or after third grade, and does not specify the applicable state standards.)
- Personnel training for school support services that a district develops or provides must adhere to Department of Education requirements.
- At the beginning of the school year, parents must be notified by the schools of each healthcare service available so parents can withhold consent or decline any specific service for their child. Consent does not waive the confidentiality and notification requirements.
- For students in kindergarten through grade 3, schools must provide copies of student well-being questionnaires or health screening forms to parents and get permission before administering them.
- After a parent notifies a school district about their concerns regarding these topics, the school district has 7 days to notify the school's principal (or someone they designate) of the concerns and the process for resolving them. If the parent's concerns are not resolved within 30 days of notification, the school district must either resolve it or provide a statement of the reason why it is unresolved. If the concern is still not resolved, a parent may:
- Ask the Commissioner of Education to appoint a special magistrate that the school district has to pay for. Within 30 days, the special magistrate will review the dispute and recommend a decision for the State Board of Education for approval or rejection between 7–30 days. (This process is quicker than going to court.)
- Take the school district to court and potentially be awarded damages, attorney fees, and court costs.
- Section 2: The Department of Education has until June 30, 2023, to review and update standards and policies for school counselors, educators, and other student services personnel in accordance with this bill.
- Section 3: The effective date will be July 1, 2022.
Section 1, Paragraph 3 has received the most attention and the heaviest criticism. In the original filings, it read:
- "A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students."
Compare with the final enrolled version, emphasis added for changed text:
- "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."
Bill summaries are not added to the Florida Statutes. However, the portion of the bill summary dealing with this paragraph was originally: "prohibiting a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner". It was changed to: "prohibiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner".
Actions by the bill sponsors
Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Sumter and parts of Lake and Marion, district 12), who introduced this bill (SB 1834) and was its sponsor in the Senate, has a history of sponsoring and supporting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation while opposing legislation that promotes LGBTQIA+ rights. He was first elected to the state legislature in 2000.[note 2]
As a member of the House of Representatives in 2015, Baxley apologized and changed his vote after initially supporting an adoption bill that included an official repeal of a ban on adoption by same-sex couples; his prior vote was a "mistake" and changed it to oppose. He claimed on a talk show, "I don't want to discriminate on somebody. I'm not phobic, but I simply can't affirm homosexuality." He further said that what he originally saw as a great adoption bill "had really become the gay bill, and at that point it was an affirmation of homosexuality for which many of us under our biblical teachings simply can't be there." Baxley supported the 2016 "Pastor Protection Act" allowing religious organizations to refuse involvement in weddings that violate their religious beliefs and argued, "There is a persecuted class here. There is a discrimination. There is a war, a battle, an assault going on, on the traditional family. […] If there's anybody under assault and discrimination, I'll tell you who it is: It's anyone who holds a biblical world view. We're called haters."
In the 2020 legislative session, Senator Baxley sponsored the failed SB 1864: Vulnerable Child Protection Act that would have criminalized health care providers who provide gender affirming services to minors. In 2021, he opposed a bill that would have banned the use of the "panic defense" to justify a defendant's assault of someone else based on "panic" over their perceived gay or transgender status. In his opposition, Baxley said, "It's pretty much a position that, you know, if you're the transgender or gay person, then you have special protections and rights, and if you don't, you're not. I'm just for equal rights for everybody, you know, liberty and justice for all — and not special groups get special treatments." On the 2021 Transgender Day of Visibility, Baxley argued in favor of the bill that became the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" to ban transgender girls and women from playing sports in alignment with their gender identity. In support of the bill, he said, "You can't make the facts move for someone. I can stand out here in the garage all day, convinced that I am an automobile. But, it doesn't make me an automobile. At the end of the day, it gives me a very confused life."
Representative Joe Harding (R-Levy and part of Marion, district 22), who was in his first term of office and sponsored the House of Representatives version of this bill (HB 1557), was previously a co-sponsor of the anti-trans "Fairness in Women's Sports Act". He also co-sponsored the Parents' Bill of Rights, which drew objections and concerns from LGBTQIA+ advocates that it could potentially require schools to break student/counselor confidentiality and "out" children to their parents. Lakey Love[note 3] of the Florida Coalition for Trans Liberation said of that bill: "This is a direct attack on transgender and gender-nonconforming Floridians, and the LGBTQ youth in particular."
The DeSantis administration
This money would have helped LGBTQ+ youth facing homelessness, bullying, isolation from their families, physical and sexual abuse, and drug abuse. We were planning to expand our housing capacity from 11 to 35 beds for homeless youth and were honored for the support of so many of our state legislators. Now we're unsure where the money will come from.Heather Wilkie, Executive Director of the Zebra Coalition, Equality Florida press release
In 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed US$50,000 from the state budget that would have gone to the LGBT+ Center Orlando for its Orlando United Assistance Center, which provides counseling and other services to survivors of the Pulse tragedy on June 12, 2016. In 2021, DeSantis signed the anti-trans sports act on June 1, followed by a June 2 veto of US$900,000 from the state budget that would have supported LGBTQIA+ people. The veto again affected The LGBT+ Center Orlando's services for Pulse survivors, which would have received US$150,000. US$750,000 would have been allocated to the Zebra Coalition to convert part of a former motel into housing for up to 35 homeless LGBTQ+ youth. The timing of the 2021 signing and vetoes, which occurred on the first days of Pride month and shortly before the fifth anniversary of the events at Pulse, was criticized locally and nationally. DeSantis' press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said the governor has been a "champion on mental health since day one", citing his approval of increased mental health funding in general, and said the characterization of his vetoes as an attack on Florida's LGBTQ+ community was "patently false".
An anti-bullying portal on Florida's Department of Education (DOE) website was created under the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Among other topics, the portal included a page addressing the bullying of LGBTQIA+ youth. However, the DOE removed the portal in December 2021 after a right-leaning online publication sparked a content review. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried subsequently announced that LGBTQIA+ resources would be hosted on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.
A federal lawsuit has been filed against the anti-trans sports act, citing violations of privacy and Title IX. Under the act, trans men and boys may choose to play on men's or women's sports teams, but trans girls and women must play on men's teams.
A staff analysis of HB 1557 cited ongoing litigation in Leon County alleging that the school district withheld information from parents about their child's (social) gender transition at school in violation of the Parents' Bill of Rights, which was not in effect at the time of the alleged incidents. The mother, January Littlejohn, emailed a math teacher in August 2020; emails with the teacher are in the public record due to state laws. She said that the parents had found a counselor to address their child's gender identity. The child had been experiencing gender dysphoria starting spring 2020 and had since asked to use they/them pronouns and another name. Littlejohn expressed in emails that the teacher could determine what was best and that she would let her child take the lead. However, the parents subsequently alleged that they did not give consent for the school to become involved; school officials maintain that a parent gave permission. The parents want the Leon County School District to change its LGBTQ guide and support forms and pay damages to them. The lawsuit was filed by The Child & Parental Rights Campaign, which "was founded to respond to a radical new ideology overtaking families and threatening the well-being of children and the fundamental right of parents", in October 2021.
The Child & Parental Rights Campaign also filed a federal lawsuit on January 24, 2022, on behalf of Wendell and Maria Perez against Clay County District Schools. The Perezes alleged that school officials concealed from them and did not ask for their consent before providing counseling to their 12-year-old child to address gender dysphoria. Allegedly, they were not told until after the child made the first of two suicide attempts at the school, an elementary school, that their child had been receiving counseling for a few months. The parents claimed in the media that the reason given by the school counselor for withholding information was "that they knew we as parents would not be in agreement because of our Catholic Christian beliefs". They alleged that the counselor told them their child had not wanted their involvement, knowing that they would not accept their child's name and pronoun changes due to their religious beliefs. The Perezes claimed that the counselor "groomed" their child to be another gender and that school officials and the counselor "precipitated a pattern of bullying" in referring to their child with male pronouns and a "fictitious" male name in front of other students. The child received in-patient treatment from a behavioral health unit following the suicide attempts.
Clay County District Schools gave a statement to First Coast News that they had not been served with any legal process and cannot comment on any pleadings filed. It also stated: "The district has performed a thorough and complete investigation into this matter as it was presented to us and has determined that the allegations made by this out-of-state organization are completely false, fabricated, and appear to be intended solely for the purpose of inciting the public." First Coast News linked the focus of the lawsuit with the focus of HB 1557.
In the Florida Senate, SB 1834 was filed on January 7, 2022 by sponsor Senator Dennis Baxley. The identical HB 1557 was filed in the Florida House of Representatives on January 11, 2022 by Representative Joe Harding. It had the following co-sponsors: David Borrero (R-parts of Broward, Collier, and Miami-Dade, district 105), Chris Latvala (R-part of Pinellas, district 67), Randall Maggard (R-part of Pasco, district 38), and John Synder (R-parts of Martin and Palm Beach, district 82).
January 20, House Education & Employment Committee
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February 8, Senate Education Committee
During its hearing in the Senate Education Committee on February 8, Sen. Baxley argued that teachers are engaging in "social engineering" and attempting to "move agendas" rather than teaching basic skills. According to him, "I think when you start opening sexual type discussions with children, you're entering a very dangerous zone." One example given of what would violate the Senate bill was a hypothetical math problem that included two moms or two dads; Baxley called that example "exactly where the problem is". The bill was found favorable by the committee 6-3 on party lines.
February 17, House Judiciary Committee
On February 17, the House Judiciary Committee approved a committee substitute[note 4] 13-7 along party lines. During the hearing, Representative Harding argued that his bill was necessary because classrooms should focus on reading, math, and "the basics". He objected to the "Don't Say Gay" nicknaming of the bill because his bill does not specifically ban saying the word. Various proponents of the bill made anti-LGBTQ+ comments as reasons for supporting the bill. Rep. Mike Beltran (R-part of Hillsborough, district 57) argued that "these sorts of things" are not appropriate to discuss at school in third grade or younger but may be appropriate at home "if you're a same-sex household or your child may be LGBT or something like that". He specifically refused to believe that any children in third grade or younger has ever died by suicide or might do so if they had not learned about "these sorts of things". Rep. Scott Plakon (R-part of Seminole, district 29) argued on the subject of "a movement" supporting LGBTQIA+ people, "Is it ridiculous that parents would be concerned about this movement targeting their children? I don't think that's a ridiculous concern. And I don't think anybody could agree that parents shouldn't have the right to be concerned about that."
Representative Mike Grieco (D-part of Miami-Dade, district 113), speaking in debate to oppose the bill, responded to the anti-LGBTQ+ remarks, "I am very concerned based upon some of the folks that I've heard from today, that there are certain areas in Florida that think that it is never age-appropriate to talk about gender identity or sexual orientation, regardless as to what arbitrary definition you place on those two terms." Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-part of Hillsborough, district 63) noted, "Whatever you intended this bill to be, it is not that anymore. It's very clear that the proponents of this bill believe in anti-gay rhetoric. It's suppressive. I'm concerned even with the plain text of the bill; it has problems. We couldn't get a straight answer — pun intended — on the definition of sexual orientation."
February 22, House Special Order Calendar
At what point do the rights of a parent end and do the rights of a child begin? When we develop policies that prioritize parental rights at all costs, including at the expense of our students and our kids, and their well-being, there are consequences. […] It lets folks sue the school if they think any conversation about LGBTQ people is not age appropriate. Listen, this is pandering to the lowest common denominator. This bill is a dream for trial lawyers.Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, addressing the Florida House of Representatives on February 22, 2022
Prior to the third reading of the entire bill, multiple proposed amendments for CS/CS/HB 1557 were considered as part of the Special Order Calendar for February 22. The full House of Representatives convened to consider amendments, rather than the entire bill, within strict time limits for questions-and-answers and debate. The debate manager assigned to the "Pro" side was Rep. Michael Grant (R-Charlotte, district 75) and Rep. Matt Willhite (D-part of Palm Beach, district 86) for "Con". Harding initially submitted, then withdrew prior to the session, an amendment that would have required schools to inform parents within six weeks if a child has come out to school personnel, regardless of any concerns about abuse, abandonment, or neglect. He denied that his amendment would have required outing students to their parents. In the session, he also claimed that the bill does not target any specific gender or sexual orientation.
Amendments that were considered on the floor:
|01. 884605||Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-part of Osceola, district 43)||Failed. For paragraph 1, proposed inserting after current text "safe and supportive learning environment for the student" new text: "regardless of their race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, or disability."|
|02. 784679||Rep. Tracie Davis (D-part of Duval, district 13)||Failed. For paragraph 1, proposed adding at the end new text: "This paragraph does not limit or alter any obligation of school district personnel to report suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect, as those terms are defined in s. 39.01."|
|03. 178971||Rep. Angela "Angie" Nixon (D-part of Duval, district 14)||Failed. For (sub)paragraph 2, insert after current text "This subparagraph does not prohibit a school district from adopting procedures that permit school personnel to withhold such information from a parent" and before current "reasonably prudent person" new text: "if the information would out a LGBTQ+ student without that student's consent or a".|
|04. 705429||Rep. Michele Rayner (D-parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota, district 70)||Failed. Retain paragraphs 1, 2 and 4–7, but delete the entirety of paragraph 3 (the one about gender identity and sexual orientation).|
|05. 703365||Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-part of Orange, district 49)||Failed. In paragraph 3, replace "sexual orientation or gender identity" with "sexual activity".|
|06. 600607||Rep. Marie Woodson (D-part of Broward, district 101)||Failed. Add at the end of paragraph 3: "This subparagraph does not apply to any discussion between a student who identifies as transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, or otherwise LGBTQ+ and their peers."|
|07. 634251||Minority Leader Rep. Evan Jenne (D-part of Broward, district 99)||Failed. Delete paragraph 4 (about Department of Education) and renumber the rest accordingly|
|08. 870647||Rep. Ben Diamond (D-part of Pinellas, district 68)||Failed. Delete paragraph 7 (giving parents increased ability to sue school district).|
|09. 722367||Rep. Harding||Adopted. Expanded paragraph 7 with further details of making complaints and proceeding to lawsuits against school districts.|
|10. 194533||Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-part of Hillsborough, district 63)||Failed. Insert at the end of paragraph 7: "A court shall award reasonable attorney fees and court costs to a school district that is found to have not violated this paragraph."|
|11. 275051||Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-part of Orange, district 47)||Failed. Create paragraph 8 with the text: "To ensure that parents and legal guardians know how to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with their children, the Department of Education, in consultation with Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), must create a pamphlet focused on providing parents and legal guardians with information on how to talk to their children about sexual orientation and gender identity. The pamphlet must contain contact information for local LGBTQ+ focused organizations that can help with such conversations. Each school district must annually provide the pamphlet to parents and legal guardians and prominently display such pamphlets in the front office of schools within the district."|
|12. 138729||Rep. Eskamani||Failed. Create paragraph 8 with the text: "A student whose school reveals their sexual orientation to the student's parent or guardian pursuant to this paragraph and causes irreparable harm to the student may bring an action against the Department of Education for injunctive relief. A court may award damages and shall award reasonable attorney fees and court costs to a student who receives injunctive relief."|
February 24, House of Representatives
If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it's a duck. That means you are homophobic, and you are transphobic [if you vote yes]. You deal with that how you may.Representative Michele Rayner, addressing the Florida House of Representatives on February 24, 2022
On February 24, the bill had its third reading in the full House of Representatives. During debate on the bill, student pages (who are in middle school) were removed from the chamber. The absence of the student pages was criticized by Representative Grieco, who further noted that the bill does not limit the ban on discussing LGBTQIA+ people to kindergarten through third grade; school districts or parents could deem topics related to the community age-inappropriate at any time. He characterized members claiming that the bill has age limitations "either mistaken or they're flat out lying". Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-part of Orange, district 49), who is the first gay Latino elected official in Florida's legislature, wore his Pride pin upside down to indicate his community is in distress.
Anti-LGBTQ+ arguments were again made by bill supporters. Representative Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin (R-part of Miami-Dade, district 119) claimed that young children are "being taught the radical leftist gender theory" and that parents know what is best. Rep. Erin Grall (Indian River and part of St. Lucie, district 54) equated school support forms regarding gender non-conforming students to hypothetical forms about "transitioning a child from one religion to another".
The House of Representatives voted 69-47 to pass the bill, with votes largely falling on party lines. It was supported by one Democratic representative, James Bush III (D-Miami-Dade, district 109), and opposed by seven Republicans.
February 28, Senate Appropriations Committee
I have heard different members of the Legislature say something along the lines of, 'Parents know what's best for their kids.' When it comes to the queer community, that is not true. If parents know what's best for their kids, why did my best friend get kicked out of his house and have to live with me?Will Larkins, president of the queer student union at Winter Park High School, public testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 28, 2022
Senate President Wilton Simpson approved fast-tracking the House version of the bill to just one stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee rather than continuing with the Senate version through two more committees. The committee was made up of seven Democratic and thirteen Republican senators, one of which was bill introducer Senator Baxley. The committee found the bill favorable 12-8, with all seven Democrats and Senator Jeff Brandes (R-part of Pinellas, district 24) voting against the bill.
As Senator Jason Pizzo (D-part of Miami-Dade, district 38) probed Sen. Baxley regarding the legislative intent of the bill and what teachers could do in response to "spontaneous or reflexive" speech, such as someone putting "two mommies" or "two daddies" on their family tree, Baxley continually dodged and claimed his bill was about "instructional materials by the school system leading in a specific direction, not regular classroom discussion between classmates". Pizzo asked, "Final question, and I mean this with all due respect: Do you believe that a classroom teacher in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, or third grade can convert someone to being gay?" The chairperson, Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-parts of Lake and Polk, district 22), said she did not believe that Pizzo's question was to the bill; he pushed back about the relevance of the bill sponsor's intent. Baxley did not answer the question, instead arguing about centering parental rights. When Pizzo attempted again to get a direct answer from Baxley regarding his beliefs and why the focus on particular ages, Stargel disallowed Pizzo's question and moved to the next senator.
Senator Lauren Book (D-part of Broward, district 32) held up a family tree assignment from when she taught kindergarten and asked Sen. Baxley multiple questions regarding it, such as whether it would count as instructional material and be permitted under the bill, if the bill would conflict with state social studies standards requiring discussions of a child's role in their family, and how he defined classroom discussion versus classroom instruction. Baxley gave vague answers that did not address her specific questions, and suggested it would prevent teachers "promoting certain worldviews or certain positions to children this young who are not ready to talk about sexual things".
Senator Audrey Gibson (D-part of Duval, district 6) asked Baxley what led to his bill, such as a specific family speaking to him about their parental rights being violated. He brought up "social engineering approaches" and "values" and said it was a "proactive bill by folks who work on parental issues and school issues", but he did not identify who brought the bill to him. Senator Linda Stewart (D-part of Orange, district 13) asked if the bill would apply to LGBTQ clubs or other extracurricular activities; he said it would not. Among other questions, Senator Bobby Powell (D-part of Palm Beach, district 30) asked how Baxley defined "social engineering approaches" and if any line in the bill dealt with that subject. Baxley said, "That is describing what goes on around social value issues, when you try to reach over from the educational arm of our society, and address these in a way that doesn't observe the authority of parents to establish those value lines."
During the questions and answers, Senator Brandes asked if "heterosexual conversations" would be allowed under the bill; when Sen. Baxley said no, Brandes asked what in the bill text disallowed discussing heterosexuality or sexual activity. Baxley avoided answering why the bill singled out sexual orientation and gender identity.
An amendment proposed by Senator Brandes would have swapped out the words "sexual orientation or gender identity" in favor of "human sexuality or sexual activity" to be more generally about sex education and no longer target the LGBTQ+ community. Sen. Baxley said Brandes' amendment would "gut" the bill. Rep. Smith voiced support for Brandes' amendment prior to the hearing and hoped to provide testimony at the hearing, but Chair Stargel did not grant him permission to speak. Stargel claimed the bill was "not meant to be hateful", and she said in support, "What this bill is seeking to fix is a situation where you have a school district that puts in place a policy of transgender/gender-non-conforming Student Support Plan, according to Title IX, which extends all the way to kids in elementary school, and that entire plan is done without the knowledge or input from the parent. That is the problem that we're fixing. I don't care if your kids are straight or if your kids are gay."
March 7, Senate Special Order Calendar
- Sen. Tina Polsky
- Why is gender identity and sexual orientation specifically prohibited when there are so many other very difficult mature subjects that are not exempted?
- Sen. Dennis Baxley
- It's an endless list of things that you could list as far as challenges to young people. We are in a trending posture right now where—I mean, my son's a psychiatrist, and I said, "Why is everybody now all about coming out when you're in school?" And there really is a dynamic of concern of how much of this are genuine type of experiences and how many of them are just kids trying on different kinds of things they hear about, and different kinds of identities, and experimenting. That's what kids do. Maybe they're in this club or that club or they're onto this. And they're trying on all these identities of life trying to see where they fit in. And I said, "Am I crazy or what? All of a sudden we're having all these issues come up about this topic of their sexuality and gender," and I said, "I don't understand why that's such a big wave right now." […] Some of it's, I'm sure, a cultural shift of what's accepted and that kind of thing. But I know some of it's the confusion that kids go—you know, particularly when you get to middle school or high school, there's a lot of whitewater. You don't get it right. You just get 'em through it. So my question is simply, "Are we encouraging this or illuminating it by putting emphasis on it or are we helping something? […] There's something wrong with how we're emphasizing this and how all of a sudden overnight they're a celebrity when they felt like they were nobody. And so I don't know how all those pieces, parts play, but I know parents are very concerned about the departure of the core belief systems and values. So I think they have a seat at the table, and I think telling them they don't have a seat at the table in this decision and this process with kids is a very, very big mistake.
- Sen. Tina Polsky
- So basically, what I just heard you say, just to confirm, that there seems to be a big uptick in the number of children who are coming out as gay or experimenting, and therefore we need to not discuss it in the younger grades. Is that correct?
- Sen. Dennis Baxley
- Those are the reminiscing of a father and a grandfather, trying to figure out what makes kids tick. And that is part of why I'm attracted to this bill, is I don't want to be putting—we know there's social inputs into how people act and what they decide to do. So yeah, that's part of our concern for the wellbeing of our children.
For the second reading of the bill on March 7, the Senate spent three hours debating and voting on proposed bill amendments to clarify the vague language and add protections for LGBTQ+ students; all failed to pass. Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-parts of Lake and Polk, district 22) claimed the amendments were an attempt to delay the bill and force it into a back and forth with the House, and that they encouraged "misrepresentation" of the bill.
Most of the thirteen amendments were determined with voice votes;[note 5] the voice vote on the amendment by Senator Shevrin Jones (D-parts of Broward and Miami-Dade, district 35) was challenged by at least five Senators to require an electronic roll call vote. The proposed amendments were:
|175814||Sen. Gary Farmer (D-part of Broward, district 34)||Before the current bill text, amend the Florida Statute regarding HIV/AIDS education in schools to change the word "heterosexual" to "monogamous", making the sentence read: "Teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age students while teaching the benefits of monogamous marriage."|
|907198||Sen. Janet Cruz (D-part of Hillsborough, district 18)||For paragraph 1, insert after current text "safe and supportive learning environment for the student" new text: "regardless of their race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability." Previously attempted by Rep. Arrington.|
|756788||Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-part of Miami-Dade, district 40)||For (sub)paragraph 1, add to the end: "This subparagraph does not limit or alter any obligation of school district personnel to report suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect, as those terms are defined in s. 39.01."|
|421704||Sen. Farmer||Delete the entirety of paragraph 3 (the one about gender identity and sexual orientation). Previously attempted by Rep. Rayner.|
|290096||Sen. Tina Polsky (D-parts of Broward and Palm Beach, district 29)||Insert at the start of (sub)paragraph 3: "3.a. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term: (I) "Gender identity" means gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, regardless of whether such gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with an individual's physiology or assigned sex at birth. (II) "Sexual orientation" means an individual's heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality."|
|427586||Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-part of Pinellas, district 24)||Replace "sexual orientation or gender identity" with "human sexuality, including, but not limited to, curricula addressing sexual activity, sexual orientation, or gender identity".|
|201756||Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-parts of Broward and Miami-Dade, district 35)||Failed; in the roll call, all 15 Democratic Senators and one Republican (Brandes) supported, and 22 Republicans voted to oppose. Replace paragraph 3 with: "Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties intended to change a student's sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur."|
|755282||Sen. Lauren Book (D-part of Broward, district 32)||Insert after "accordance with state standards" at the end of (sub)paragraph 3: "For purposes of this subparagraph, the term "classroom instruction" does not include instruction or discussion relating to any of the following: a. Family structures. b. Objective historical events. c. Bullying prevention. d. A student's individual education plan (IEP) or 504 plan."|
|734244||Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-part of Orange, district 11)||Add at the end of (sub)paragraph 3: "This subparagraph does not apply to any discussion between a student who identifies as transgender, gender nonconforming, non-binary, or otherwise LGBTQ+ and their peers." Previously attempted by Rep. Woodson.|
|538822||Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-part of Duval, district 6)||Delete paragraph 4 (about adhering to Department of Education for student services) and section 2 (1 year deadline for Department of Education to make updates).|
|745072||Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-part of Miami-Dade, district 38)||Remove the paragraph that would give parents the ability to bring action against and potentially receive damages and fees from school districts.|
|486826||Sen. Linda Stewart (D-part of Orange, district 13)||In paragraph 7, after the sentence about how "a court may award damages and shall award reasonable attorney fees and court costs to a parent who receives declaratory or injunctive relief", add: "A court shall award reasonable attorney fees and court costs to a school district that is found to have not violated this paragraph."|
|374376||Sen. Lori Berman (D-part of Palm Beach, district 31)||Create paragraph 8 with the text: "To ensure that parents and legal guardians know how to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with their children, the Department of Education, in consultation with Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), shall create a pamphlet focused on providing parents and legal guardians with information on how to talk to their children about sexual orientation and gender identity. The pamphlet must contain contact information for local LGBTQ+ focused organizations that can assist parents in preparing for such conversations. Each school district shall annually provide the pamphlet to parents and legal guardians and prominently display such pamphlets in the front office of schools within the district." (Almost identical to attempted amendment barcode 275051 by Rep. Eskamani)|
March 8, Senate
So let's be clear, the bill sponsor […] Senator Baxley made it clear that this bill is about one thing: section three—sexual orientation, gender identity. Even being pressed on it through amendments and even me wanting to take that section to do what this body, I believe, that you all said you intend to want to do, to give parents that right—which they already have—but to take that out and we say that it is not geared towards the LGBTQ community. You can't say that it's not, but then the bill sponsor says it is; you got to pick one. […] And I'm sure you all heard the children yesterday. Some of them are still in the gallery right now. Why would so many LGBTQ youth, parents, and allies be here if the nuances of this bill was not what it is, and where individuals feel attacked on it? […] I believe that this will be another stain on the history of Florida. Whether you disagree with the messaging or not when it comes to people calling it the "don't say gay" bill, or you can put whatever title behind it all you want, it hurts people.Senator Shevrin Jones, addressing the Senate on March 8, 2022
The bill passed 22-17 in the Senate, with all Democrats opposing as well as two Republicans, Senators Jeff Brandes (R-part of Pinellas, district 24) and Jenn Bradley (R-Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union counties and part of Marion; district 5). Sen. Brandes had previously opposed the bill, and Sen. Bradley said, "I want to support parental rights in school but I'm also mindful of our Legislature's voice. I'm a mom to three children and I love all of the children in the state of Florida, and I'm concerned about the message it sends."
During debate, Democratic Senators called out the homophobic and transphobic intentions behind the bill and the statements made by their Republican colleagues, while multiple Republican Senators continued to make such statements in support of the bill. Sen. Ileana Garcia (R-part of Miami-Dade, district 37) claimed, "Gay is not a permanent thing. LGBT is not a permanent thing."
I want to speak to the boy or girl, the trans boy or the trans girl, and I want to tell them that you're wonderful, you're not confused, and there's a community of people who love you, who support you, and who are rooting for you. I want to speak to the father or the mother who think just because your child came out as LGBTQ that you've done something wrong. That parent, you've done nothing wrong; you've done everything right, and as a matter of fact, you're actually the real MVP. I want to speak to the one who's still battling with who they are. I have this saying that I tell people all the time: when you become okay with it, you give everybody else permission to do the same. Here's the big one: I want to talk to that church. To the church that rejected the boy or the girl who walked in your doors, I want to tell you that you can't teach love, but don't show love. […] And to those who think you can legislate gay people away: I'm sorry, you cannot. I think you should spend your time legislating to protect them.Senator Shevrin Jones, addressing the Senate on March 8, 2022
Multiple legislators argued in favor of the bill, including but not limited to:
- Sen. Danny Burgess (R-parts of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Polk, district 20)
- Sen. Manny Diaz (R-part of Miami-Dade, district 36)
- Sen. Ileana Garcia (R-part of Miami-Dade, district 37)
- Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-part of Lee, district 27)
- Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-parts of Lake and Polk, district 22), Chair of Appropriations Committee
At committee hearings, individuals representing themselves or representing organizations waived in support or provided public testimony as proponents of the bill. (Some were also in opposition to amendment barcode 546314/760288.) These members of the public were:
I walk into a building every day where I am told that I do not matter. I can not only surmise that it's because you don't care—that gay folks, and LGBT folks and trans folks don't matter. So I'm here to tell the LGBTQ babies who are watching: You matter. I see you. You are loved. You are perfect just the way you are. I know you are getting told right now in this room that you are less than. But God made you beautiful and special just the way you are. If you are trans, how you show—I'm speaking to that aide that comes into this Capitol every day and that has to fight, and is one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen and known: You are special. You are seen. And you are appreciated. To the other folks that work here in this Capitol and have to endure listening to this legislation: You are seen. You are worthy, and you are beautiful. And I'm speaking to my wife, who's standing right there—who's sitting right there, rather: You are seen. You are loved. And you are beautiful.Representative Michele Rayner, addressing the Florida House of Representatives on February 24, 2022
Among others, the bill was strongly opposed within the legislature by the three openly gay legislators:
- Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-part of Orange, district 49), Florida's first elected LGBTQ+ Latino state legislator, Democratic Ranking Member of the State Affairs Committee and the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee
- Rep. Michele Rayner (D-parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota, district 70), the first openly queer Black woman and queer woman of color elected as a Florida state legislator
- Sen. Shevrin "Shev" Jones (D-parts of Broward and Miami-Dade, district 35), Florida's first elected openly gay Senator and formerly a Representative who publicly came out while in office in 2018, Vice Chair of the Education Committee
This is an anti-gay bill, and if you vote for this anti-gay bill, after today you can never, ever claim to be an ally of the LGBTQ community. In fact, you are voting to be an opponent. I'm gonna vote down on this bill, and I'm going to say gay until I'm rainbow in the face.Representative Mike Grieco, addressing the Florida House of Representatives on February 24, 2022
LGBTQIA+ allies among the legislature who strongly opposed the bill include but are not limited to:
- Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-part of Osceola, district 43), fought as a member of the Education & Employment Committee and filed an amendment
- Rep. Robin Bartleman (D-part of Broward, district 104), fought in the chamber
- Rep. Ben Diamond (D-part of Pinellas, district 68), fought as a member of the Judiciary Committee and filed an amendment
- Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-part of Hillsborough, district 63), fought as the Democratic Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee and filed an amendment
- Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-part of Orange, district 47), filed two amendments and fought in the chamber
- Rep. Mike Grieco (D-part of Miami-Dade, district 113), fought as a member of the Judiciary Committee and in the chamber
- Rep. Angie Nixon (D-part of Duval, district 14), filed an amendment
- Rep. Marie Woodson (D-part of Broward, district 101), filed an amendment
- Sen. Lori Berman (D-part of Palm Beach, district 31)
- Sen. Lauren Book (D-part of Broward, district 32)
- Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-part of Orange, district 11)
- Sen. Janet Cruz (D-part of Hillsborough, district 18)
- Sen. Gary Farmer (D-part of Broward, district 34)
- Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-part of Miami-Dade, district 38)
- Sen. Tina Polsky (D-parts of Broward and Palm Beach, district 29)
Other attempts to amend the bill (in ways that would not alter paragraph 3 or insert new affirmative language) were made by:
- Rep. Tracie Davis (D-part of Duval, district 13)
- Rep. Minority Leader Rep. Evan Jenne (D-part of Broward, district 99)
- Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-part of Duval, district 6)
- Sen. Linda Stewart (D-part of Orange, district 13)
- Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-part of Miami-Dade, district 40)
The following Republicans voted no on the bill in the final floor votes:
- Rep. Vance Aloupis, Jr. (R-part of Miami-Dade, district 115), after previously supporting in the Education & Employment Committee
- Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera (R-part of Miami-Dade, district 114), after previously supporting in the Judiciary Committee
- Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-part of Broward, district 93), after previously supporting in the Education & Employment Committee
- Rep. Amber Mariano (R-part of Pasco, district 36), after previously supporting in the Education & Employment Committee
- Rep. James Vernon "Jim" Mooney, Jr. (R-Monroe and part of Miami-Dade, district 120)
- Rep. Rene "Coach P" Plasencia (R-parts of Orange and Brevard, district 50)
- Rep. William Cloud "Will" Robinson, Jr. (R-parts of Manatee and Sarasota, district 71)
- Sen. Jenn Bradley (R-Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union counties and part of Marion; district 5), after previously supporting the bill in the Education Committee and opposing Sen. Jones' amendment on the floor
- Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-part of Pinellas, district 24), also attempted an amendment and voted no in Appropriations Committee, attempted an amendment again on the floor
Every single one of you have a sexual orientation. Every single one of you have a gender identity. To prohibit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity is to exclude what it is to be human.Lakey Love, of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation, public testimony to the Senate Education Committee on January 20, 2022
At committee hearings, individuals representing themselves or representing organizations waived in opposition or provided public testimony as opponents. (Some were also in support of amendment barcode 546314/760288.) These members of the public were:
Florida student protests
When it comes to talking about sexuality in elementary school, you have to think about situations like show and tell. Can you talk about your family in that setting if you have a gay relative? What about teachers? What if a guy is married to another guy? Is he allowed to have a picture of his husband on the desk? I think it's necessary for development to have those questions and discussions.Caitlyn Traxler, 11th-grade student and vice president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Manatee School for the Arts, Bradenton Herald
Student-led, student-organized school walkouts were held to protest HB 1557 and support LGBTQ+ rights for students, with most taking place at noon on Thursday, March 3, 2022. The walkouts received local and national news coverage. Although media reports have said "at least twenty" schools were identified as participating in the walkout, the total count is at least 60.
|Atlantic Coast High School||Jacksonville||Duval|
|Bayside High School||Palm Bay||Brevard|
|Blake High School||Tampa||Hillsborough|
|Boone High School (on March 7)||Orlando||Orange|
|Braden River High School||Bradenton||Manatee||30+ (after false alarm)|
|Brandon High School||Brandon||Hillsborough|
|Buchholz High School||Gainesville||Alachua|
|Colonial High School (on March 2)||Orlando||Orange||About 100|
|Crooms Academy of Information Technology||Sanford||Seminole|
|Cypress Lake Middle School||Fort Myers||Lee|
|Cypress Lake High School||Fort Myers||Lee||100–150 or 200–300|
|Dr. Phillips High School (on March 7)||Orlando||Orange|
|Dunbar Middle School||Fort Myers||Lee|
|Eastside High School||Gainesville||Alachua|
|Edgewater High School (on March 4)||Orlando||Orange|
|Edgewood Junior/Senior High School||Merritt Island||Brevard|
|Fivay High School||Hudson||Pasco|
|Flagler Palm Coast High School||Palm Coast||Flagler||500+|
|Florida State University||Tallahassee||Leon|
|Fort Myers High School||Fort Myers||Lee||300+|
|Freedom High School||Tampa||Hillsborough|
|Gainesville High School||Gainesville||Alachua||400+|
|Gibbs High School||St. Petersburg||Pinellas|
|Gulf Coast High School||Naples||Collier||75|
|Gulf High School||New Port Richey||Pasco|
|Hagerty High School||Oviedo||Seminole|
|Hillsborough High School||Tampa||Hillsborough||About 250|
|Howard W. Bishop Middle School||Gainesville||Alachua|
|J. W. Mitchell High School||New Port Richey||Pasco|
|Lake Brantley High School||Altamonte Springs||Seminole|
|Lake Howell High School||Winter Park||Seminole|
|Lake Mary High School||Lake Mary||Seminole|
|Lakewood High School||St. Petersburg||Pinellas||100+|
|Largo High School||Largo||Pinellas|
|Leon High School||Tallahassee||Leon|
|Lennard High School||Gibsonton||Hillsborough|
|Loften High School||Gainesville||Alachua|
|Lyman High School||Longwood||Seminole|
|Mandarin High School||Jacksonville||Duval|
|Matanzas High School||Palm Coast||Flagler||About 200|
|Melbourne High School||Melbourne||Brevard|
|Manatee School for the Arts (charter school)||Palmetto||Manatee|
|Mariner High School||Cape Coral||Lee|
|Naples High School||Naples||Collier|
|North Fort Myers High School||Fort Myers||Lee|
|Orange Park High School||Orange Park||Clay|
|Oviedo High School||Oviedo||Seminole|
|Palm Harbor University High School||Palm Harbor||Pinellas|
|Paul R. Wharton High School||Tampa||Hillsborough|
|Pine View School for the Gifted||Osprey (Sarasota)||Sarasota|
|P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School||Gainesville||Alachua|
|River Ridge High School (on March 7)||New Port Richey||Pasco|
|Riverview High School||Sarasota||Sarasota|
|Robinson High School||Tampa||Hillsborough|
|Rutherford High School||Panama City||Bay|
|SAIL High School||Tallahassee||Leon|
|Sandalwood High School||Jacksonville||Duval|
|Seminole High School||Sanford||Seminole||"Hundreds"|
|St. Augustine High School||St. Augustine||St. Johns|
|Terry Parker High School||Jacksonville||Duval|
|Wesley Chapel High School||Wesley Chapel||Pasco|
|Winter Park High School (on March 7)||Winter Park||Orange||500+|
|Winter Springs High School||Winter Springs||Seminole|
|Wiregrass Ranch High School||Wesley Chapel||Pasco|
Over a dozen other schools participated but did not receive media coverage; however, attendees documented their walkouts on social media.[note 6]
After the House of Representatives passed the bill on February 24, Flagler Palm Coast High School (FPCHS) junior and student activist Jack Petocz began organizing the statewide walkouts via social media with the hashtag #DSGWalkout; other students across the state answered his call to organize actions at their schools. At FPCHS, Alyssa Vidal helped organize the walkout that was originally planned for noon; she said the administration required them to reschedule for the morning due to "security concerns". The school district did not permit teachers to participate, but more than 500 students are estimated to have walked out at FPCHS. Afterward, Petocz was suspended, or "administratively excused" in the words of the school board attorney, apparently for distributing rainbow pride flags after the principal consulted with the superintendent and warned Petocz not to. The attorney told Flagler Live that flag distribution was not permissible because the flags were a political statement. Flagler County School District spokesman Jason Wheeler told The Daytona Beach News-Journal, "Student leaders were told no flags prior to and at the beginning of the event so as to avoid undue safety concerns and campus disruptions. School administration spoke with the event organizer numerous times about the expectations and parameters so that students could take part in a peaceful, safe protest." After the walkout, Petocz posted a statement on social media about his suspension.
In Tallahassee (Florida's capital city), at least 100 students from Leon High School, Sail High School, and Florida State University met up in front of the historic Capitol building and proceeded to the courtyard. By 1 pm, students had gathered inside the Capitol to protest outside the chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives.
At Pine View School for the Gifted in Sarasota, the walkout was led by the school's first openly gay student class president, Zander Moricz. He said of the bill, "It's devastating to watch Florida move back through history and add to the oppression queer children are already experiencing. The first person I ever came out to was a Pine View teacher, and we've had long conversations about who and where I'd be if I hadn't been able to share myself with them... erasing schools as a place to do this will be deadly, in the literal sense."
Nicole Crane, co-president of Gay-Straight Alliance at Wiregrass High School, told the Tampa Bay Times that the protest there was marred by mockery of the LGBTQ+ community. Braden River High School's scheduled 12:00 pm walkout was cancelled moments before it was due to take place. According to Kevin Chapman, executive director of administration for the School District of Manatee County, school leaders received word of "a serious threat" that law enforcement had to investigate; by 12:30 PM, it was found to be a false alarm. At least 30 students demonstrated despite the false alarm and threat of disciplinary action.
Proud to Say Gay
|This section is incomplete. You can help LGBTQIA+ Wiki by expanding it.|
On Monday, March 7, students held a "Proud to Say Gay" rally and protests at the Capitol. Attendees included university students; students from Leon County's middle and high schools; teachers and members of a church group from St. Petersburg; advocates from Gainesville, Marianna, Miami, and Orlando; state legislators; and local residents.
See the article references for more.