‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Would Let Parents Sue LGBTQ-Friendly Schools

The Parental Rights in Education Act, which opponents are calling the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is part of a trend.
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A bill in Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature would ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity for younger students—and allow parents to sue school districts that don’t comply. 

The bill, filed by GOP Rep. Joe Harding and titled the Parental Rights in Education Act, says that school districts “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.” 


If a school district is suspected of encouraging such discussion, the bill states, parents “may bring an action against a school district”—i.e., a lawsuit—to bar them from doing so and may even be entitled to damages.

The bill passed the Florida House Education committee last week and on Tuesday was referred to the House Judiciary committee. 

The bill does not specify what grades are covered by “primary grade levels.” Harding told CNN that the bill would apply to kindergarten through third grade classes, but WFSU reported last week that it would target classes through fifth grade. Neither Harding nor Sen. Dennis Baxter, the Republican state senator who filed a companion bill in that body, immediately responded to a request for comment from VICE News. 

“At that age they need to be worried about reading and worrying about their math,” Baxter told CNN Monday. “For me, it’s why are we sensationalizing this age to have all these questions and to force so many questions on gender on these children at that age?”

“Allow things to come up organically, but don’t force conversations on them,” Baxter added.

LGBTQ advocates and Florida Democrats have denounced the bill. “Conversations about us aren’t something dangerous that should be banned,” Equality Florida public policy director Jon Harris Mauer said at a committee hearing last week. “That’s deeply prejudicial, and it sends a terrible message to our young people, including LGBTQ young people or young people who have LGBTQ parents.”


“Every time is appropriate to acknowledge that LGBTQ people and families exist, and anyone who disagrees has a position rooted in homophobia and transphobia,” Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando-area Democrat, told CNN earlier this week. 

The new bill is just the latest in a trend of lawmakers turning to legal threats from private citizens rather than state regulation to enact social policy, the most high-profile of which is a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks and allowing anyone at all to sue abortion providers. Soon after the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay on the Texas law, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would work to pass a similar law targeting assault weapons manufacturers and distributors. 

And last month, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed an anti-critical race theory bill which, if passed, would also allow parents as well as students and employees to sue schools and businesses that force them to learn critical race theory—despite the fact that there’s scant evidence it’s being taught at all.

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