The Florida state Senate voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. The bill, having already passed in the state House of Representatives, now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.
Most of the bill is innocuous fluff, outlining parents’ rights to access their students’ medical records. This buries the offending bit, which reads:
Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.
DeSantis has been very upset that people are calling the bill “Don’t Say Gay.” But how else would you describe the effect of the above clause?
The bill also specifies how parents may bring a lawsuit against the school district if they believe their rights have been violated. Critics fear that the vagueness of the phrase “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” could lead to superfluous lawsuits while creating uncertainty for students and teachers of all grade levels about how much discussion of LGBTQ issues the law permits.
Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, has been tweeting her defense of the bill non-stop. This weekend, she caused an uproar among liberals when she referred to the legislation as the “Anti-Grooming Bill,” implying that discussions of gender identity or sexual orientation with kids were tantamount to child abuse. “If you’re against the anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4- to 8-year-old children,” she wrote. “Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.” (Please read my colleague Ali Breland’s fantastic essay on why right-wingers are obsessed with pedophilia.)
This is just the latest in a series of Republican-backed “culture war” bills that seek to legislate problems that don’t exist. While health care consistently ranks among the top issues for Florida’s aging populace, DeSantis & co. continue stoking the flames of issues that matter only to Twitter addicts, to no one’s benefit.