While much of the world remains fixated on Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, those in Florida’s political arena are weighing in on the Parental Rights in Education bill that was signed into law on Monday.
Governor Ron DeSantis kickstarted the week officially signing a bill (HB 1557) that limits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in K-3 classrooms. The measure was a major pillar in the Governor’s larger legislative agenda, which also included a 15-week abortion ban, cracking down on critical race theory (CRT) teachings inside the classroom, and safeguarding elections. The proposal would prohibit instruction of LGBTQ topics for kindergarten through third-graders while also providing parents more transparency regarding curriculum and their child’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
The bill, branded the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, has sparked national attention and outrage with many on the political left, becoming one of the biggest ‘culture war’ issues in Florida’s 2022 Legislative Session. Opponents argue that the broad language in the bill could harm LGBTQ children and open school districts to lawsuits from parents who disagree with such topics and discussions. Supporters disagree, however, noting that parents should be the only ones responsible for teaching their children about sexuality and issues surrounding identity.
Speaking at today’s bill signing, DeSantis fact-checked the language inside the legislation and promised not to “back down” to corporations and media outlets who attempt to misinform the public about it.
“The bill takes three main steps: first, the bill prohibits classrooms instruction about sexuality or things like transgender in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms, and after third grade, those curriculums need to be age-appropriate. Second, the bill ensures that at the beginning of every school year, parents will be notified about healthcare services offered at the school, with the right to decline any service offered. And finally, this bill ensures that whenever a questionnaire or health screening is given to our young students, parents receive it first and give permission to the school to give it to their child,” said DeSantis.
“I don’t care what corporate media outlets say, I don’t care what Hollywood says, I don’t care what big corporations say. Here I stand. I’m not backing down,” he asserted.
Disney, one of the largest corporations to stand in opposition to the bill, released a statement following its signing, vowing to help repeal the measure.
“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” the statement reads. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”
Prominent Democrats also voiced their concern about the controversial bill.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate and ardent critic of DeSantis, released a statement alongside a video on Twitter, condemning the Republican presidential prospect while maintaining that she’ll protect those in the LGTBQ community when she becomes governor.
“To our LGBTQ+ students: I stand with you and I see you. When I’m governor, my top priority will be to make sure you are protected, not attacked. I’m so sorry your government failed you today,” Fried stated.
We’re not going to stand for this hate and this divisiveness — we’re going to love who we want to love. pic.twitter.com/JD1Liz80sA
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) March 28, 2022
Representative Joe Harding, the bill’s primary sponsor in the House, hit back at Fried, reassuring parents that he will have their back.
To the parents of Florida: I stand with you and I see you.
I’m sorry that there are people like below that want to take away your rights, sexualize your 6 year olds and lie to you. https://t.co/Y3wa9SLfpA
— Joe Harding (@josephbharding) March 28, 2022
Charlie Crist, a former Florida Republican governor who, like Fried, is looking to unseat DeSantis in 2022, was also vocal on social media in his rebuke of DeSantis and company.
“DeSantis just signed his bigoted and homophobic Don’t Say Gay bill. This is unacceptable and we need to defeat him. Like and retweet if you agree,” Crist tweeted, while also issuing his own video response.
It’s a grim day for Florida. Today especially, I want our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in Florida and across the country to know that they are loved and will always be welcomed in the Sunshine State. pic.twitter.com/ktwbJklZVe
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) March 28, 2022
Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book also took aim at DeSantis and her Republican colleagues in the Senate, issuing a lengthy statement that labeled the bill as “cruel,” while outlining issues — such as a housing crisis — that Floridians are facing.
“Today, Governor DeSantis signed yet another piece of divisive and particularly cruel legislation, in HB1157. Dismissive and uninformed Republicans claim the reason for national outrage is because we haven’t read the bill. We read it. So did medical professionals, educators, community leaders, and parents,” Book noted. “It is an attack on Florida’s LGBTQ+ community and our teachers. Perhaps the Senate Republican bill sponsor didn’t read it, or understand it, because he couldn’t even define simple terms in the bill, including “sexual orientation. Crafted in ignorance and fear mongering, this legislation has little to do with student safety and everything to do with culture wars fabricated by Republicans.”
“What Floridians need is affordable housing, a living wage, and safe communities. This does nothing to address the issues hurting Florida’s families. Not only will teachers be punished, and school boards mired in needless litigation for allowing classroom discussion about a student’s own family structure, but children with LGBTQ+ family members will be both shunned and shamed by the very institutions that protect them. It is a disgrace that supporters of the bill blatantly ignore the will of the people while cultivating a police state void of any trust in our teachers,” she continued.
The bill is set to go in effect on July 1.
Today, I signed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education Act, into law.
It ensures parents can send their kids to kindergarten without gender ideology being injected into instruction and they will be notified and have the right to decline healthcare services offered at schools. pic.twitter.com/OLnW2GLrJl
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 28, 2022