Protests erupted inside and near Florida’s Capitol building Friday as lawmakers in the state’s House of Representatives voted to pass an expansion to what critics commonly refer to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The proposed legislation would build on the 2022 Parental Rights in Education Act, which bans discussions of gender identity and sexuality from kindergarten through third grade at public schools. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other Florida conservatives have argued that teaching such topics in public schools is a form of “indoctrination,” and that these should instead be taught by parents at home.
The new bill, HB 1069, would place further limits on discussions of sex education, sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 public schools, and would have them teach that “sex is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth.” It would also restrict the way that teachers in these schools can use students’ preferred pronouns.
As lawmakers debated the bill Friday, over 100 LGBTQ+ students and allies marched toward the state Capitol. Many flooded into the halls outside the House chamber, with others protesting around the building and in areas near the Capitol grounds.
The protesters outside the House chamber stood in a large circle, chanting “this is what democracy looks like” and “hey hey, ho ho, Ron DeSantis has got to go.” The crowd started booing upon hearing news of the bill’s passage.
Many Florida Democrats opposed the proposal, saying it was tantamount to sex discrimination, Politico reports.
“This bill does nothing but tell certain parts of our community in Florida that they don’t exist,” said state Rep. Ashley Gantt (D), according to Politico.
Two GOP lawmakers voted against the proposal. But in Florida’s Republican-majority legislative chamber, the bill still passed 77-35. The vote took place on Transgender Day of Visibility, observed annually on March 31.
HB 1069 is among 10 Florida bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights that have advanced in the current legislative session, as well as hundreds more nationwide. These include similar expansions to the Parental Rights in Education Act, such as SB 1320 and HB 1223, introduced by GOP lawmakers in Florida.
The Senate version of HB 1069 still awaits one final committee hearing before the proposal can head to the floor for a final vote.