Florida governor signs controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ schools bill into law
11:48 JST, March 29, 2022
Florida governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a law banning lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools, a step that critics say will hurt the LGBTQ community.
“We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination,” the Republican governor said before signing the bill into law.
Opposition Democrats and LGBTQ rights activists have lobbied against what they call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which will affect kids in kindergarten through third grade, when they are eight or nine years old.
Critics say this wording means the bill could be applied to older children as well.
Republicans have countered that teachers and students can in fact speak spontaneously about sexual orientation and gender identity and that the bill simply bans lessons on these issues from being part of official school curricula.
The legislation caused a stir throughout the country after it was approved by Florida’s Republican-majority state senate on March 8.
The controversy also sparked protests in mid-March among workers at entertainment giant Disney for not opposing the law outright.
The company, which employs about 75,000 people at its theme park in Orlando, Florida, finally condemned the bill Monday in a statement.
On Sunday, the hosts of the Oscars ceremony — comedians Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes — alluded to the Florida law in their opening speech when they repeated the word “gay” numerous times.
For months, Republicans in Florida have been waging what they call a battle for parents to have a greater say over what their children learn in school.
The advocacy group Equality Florida, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, criticized DeSantis for signing the bill.
“DeSantis has damaged our state’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place for all families, he has made us a laughing stock and target of national derision,” the NGO said in a statement.
“Worse, he has made schools less safe for children.”
The education war in Florida also centers on teaching of critical race theory, the doctrine holding that racism is an inherent part of law and legal institutions in America in that they serve to maintain social, economic and political inequality.
Last month, the lower house of the Florida legislature passed a bill banning the teaching of race-oriented subjects as part of official school curricula.
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