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Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill sparks outcry, protests

Lenn Almadin Thornhill | TFC News USA

Posted at Mar 17 2022 08:39 PM | Updated as of Mar 18 2022 08:54 PM

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From the halls of Florida's state capitol building in Tallahassee to a school campus in Winter Park, protests continue in the Sunshine State against a new controversial legislation referred to as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill.

The actual title is the Parental Rights in Education bill which passed both the state house and senate.

"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," Democratic State Senator Shevrin Jones insisted.

The bill bans teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through grade 3 and limits discussions in other grades. Supporters of the bill argue that it gives parents more oversight about what their kids learn at school and that LGBTQ-related topics should be left for families to discuss at home.

"Nothing will make me madder than if my child comes home for something, comes home from school, and tells me that something happened at school and I was not being made aware of," Republican State Senator Debbie Mayfield said.

Filipino American Grace De La Rosa, who is running for the Duval County School Board District 2, agreed.

"The first seven years of a child's life are the most formidable of their life. This is the time in their life where we as a community, as parents, as siblings, all of that can now start to form that child, that young human being’s brain and character," De La Rosa said. "This has nothing to do with gay. This has nothing to do with that and everything to do with making some serious changes with what our country needs, and getting part to the foundation and the first part of that is education."

For opponents, like student activist Mary Ayers, the measure would unfairly target gay and transgender students.

"The vague wording of this bill is also leading to direct harm in certain school districts. Something I was told recently is that there are schools in Melbourne Florida right now that are trying to interpret this bill in a way that would out transgender students," Ayers noted.

Ayers also urged the public "to keep speaking about it, holding protests, signing petitions, whatever we can do to keep people talking."

The bill has sparked outcry and reactions from celebrities to leaders of global companies including Disney. U.S. President Joe Biden has also condemned the bill, calling it hateful.

Governor Ron DeSantis, who supports and defends the measure, is expected to sign the legislation. Once he does, it will take effect in July, with parents able to sue teachers who break its rules.