PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A piece of legislation working its way through the state capital has reportedly caused quite the stir.
House Bill 1577 and its companion, Senate Bill 1834, have been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents.
The legislation would ban the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida primary classrooms.
It would also bar school districts from maintaining confidentiality agreements that prohibit educators from disclosing information about a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity to their parents.
In a rare move, President Biden denounced the state bill, calling it “hateful” to the LGBTQ+ community.
A local gay rights activist said this type of legislation does more harm than good.
“So many of them hate going to school because of the bullying and the abuse that they are victims of from their peers and from the staff the teachers,” activist William Shurbutt-Rardin said. “At the same time, school is the only safe place for these kids to go because their home life is in such a way that’s it’s dangerous for them.”
Another local resident shares the same views.
“I feel like students should feel comfortable to come to their teachers because it is kind of their second family,” Destin resident Laura Upchurch said. “If they are not very comfortable talking to their parents about things, they should be able to have an adult figure they can talk to that can support them and also not disclose something they may not be ready to disclose.”
But proponents of the bill said the discussion should be left for parents to have with their kids.
“They have a political and cultural view that they get wrapped up in, and they become advocates in that setting with children, not thinking that this is the parents’ role,” State Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) said.
“We are not against parents, we are supposed to be working hand in hand for the safety and betterment of these students, and by denying them the ability to reach out to responsible adults who have their best interest at heart really is going to put handcuffs on the type of young people that we could be brought into society,” local educator Brian Crooks said.
The legislation has yet to be voted on by the Florida House of Representatives or Senate, but both bodies’ Education Committees have advanced the bills.