TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NEXSTAR) – On Tuesday, the Florida Senate passed the state’s highly controversial bill banning certain discussions on sexual orientation and gender identities in schools. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law.
House Bill 1557, called the Parental Rights in Education bill, was passed in a 22-17 vote, Nexstar’s WFLA reports. Once effective, the law would mean several changes in Florida schools.
The law would apply to kindergarten through third grade classrooms – according to supporters the bill aims to shield students from material that’s not “age appropriate.”
The legislation would not only prevent teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms, it would allow parents/guardians to sue teachers and/or schools who discuss these topics.
DeSantis signaled confidence in the bill’s passage Monday, saying: “We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum.”
The bill also contains language many worry will enable and/or force schools to “out” students who come out as LGBTQ+ to their families. According to the bill schools are prohibited from preventing personnel from notifying parents about “specified information or that encourage student to withhold from parent such information.”
Critics say the bill will further stigmatize queer youth, who are already predisposed to significantly higher mental stress, discrimination and tense home lives, according to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey of LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.
On Monday, several Democrats – and even some Republicans – attempted to expand the bill so as not to single out queer youth. Republican State Sen. Jeff Brandes’ submitted an amendment that would have banned all discussion of sexuality. It was not included in the bill, however, and no changes were made.
Brandes was among only two Republicans to vote against the bill.
“This is going to endanger the safety of our LGBTQ students and adolescents,” Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo said during Tuesday’s debate. “We will not stop until this state moves forward and actually values everyone in it, everyone no matter their sexual orientation.”
President Joe Biden condemned HB 1577, calling it “hateful” and pledging his administration would work to protect rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
These measures come as a flurry of challenges to LGBTQ-referential books in public schools and libraries sweeps the nation, with many books banned or removed from shelves. If signed into law, HB 1557 will take effect in Florida on July 1.