TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — A piece of legislation dubbed by critics as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passed the Florida House in a floor vote on Thursday afternoon, but not before contentious, emotional debate and with a few state representatives crossing party lines.
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.Florida House Bill 1557, ‘Parental Rights in Education’
One Democrat voted for the legislation — Fla. Rep. Dr. James Bush, D-Miami — and seven Republicans voted against it, including two from Tampa Bay: Fla. Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, and Will Robinson, Jr., R-Bradenton.
Debate on the floor was heated and emotional — especially when Fla. Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, called out her colleagues.
“If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s a duck,” Rayner said. “That means you are homophobic, and you are transphobic [if you vote yes]. You deal with that how you may.”
Republicans fought back against those accusations.
“This simply means we’re allowing parents to parent their children,” said Fla. Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid. “It means we’re not hiding things from parents. It’s naïve, selfish and ignorant of us to believe parenting ends when you send your child to school.”
The Q&A session on Tuesday was also filled with emotion.
Fla. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, came to tears when responding to instruction from House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, not to make the debate personal.
“I’m trying, Mr. Speaker, I’m trying,” Smith said. “But this bill is deeply personal.”
The bill will now head to the Senate, where it will be heard in the Appropriations committee Monday morning at 10:30 a.m.