TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In the latest battle over Florida’s newly-signed Parental Rights in Education law, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and other Florida Republicans hit back at the Biden administration for comments of its plans to “monitor” Florida over it.
House Bill 1557, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, according to critics of the legislation, was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 28. Since its first introduction in the Florida House, it has been controversial, drawing battle lines between businesses, such as Disney, as well as between teachers and lawmakers over the intent and effects of the new law.
On paper, and according to the law’s proponents, the bill gives more control of education to parents of children in kindergarten through third grade. Opponents of the law say it makes Florida more dangerous for its young LGBTQ+ community, particularly in schools, over language which prohibits discussion of “sexual orientation and gender identity.”
During HB 1557‘s legislative process, the White House and President Joe Biden signaled disapproval and disagreement with the bill. Now signed into law, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said he would have department staff monitor the effects of the legislation and how it would be implemented.
Rubio pushed back on that notion, saying Florida’s parents have “an obligation to care for the wellbeing of their children” and the federal government does not have the right to step in. Rubio’s letter to the Biden administration and Sec. Cardona was signed onto by 10 U.S. Representatives from Florida: Daniel Webster, Byron Donalds, Gus Bilirakis, Bill Posey, Carlos Gimenez, Greg Steube, John Rutherford, Scott Franklin, Brian Mast and Michael Waltz. All of his co-signers are Republican members of the U.S. House.
The senator also targeted the critics of the law’s arguments, saying that “sex-based issues are not suitable for classroom instruction with children as young as 5” and that there was a time and place to have those talks, with parents and their children, instead. Rubio’s commentary on the sex-based nature of the discussions echoes similar sentiment by DeSantis and other lawmakers supporting the bill.
In the letter to USDOE, Rubio sent questions on how the department intends to monitor Florida with regard to the new law. His questions were as follows.
- Should pre-K through third grade students be required to engage in classroom discussions about sexuality and gender identity?
- Do you believe it is acceptable for pre-K through third grade teachers to incorporate topics about sexuality and gender identity into their class curriculums?
- How does the Department view the role of a parent when it comes to their child’s education and well-being?
- In detail, please explain the course of action the Department plans to take in implementing your order to “monitor” the Florida law?
- Will the Department seek to monitor, or ask any other government entity to monitor, parents who exercise their rights under this bill?
- How does the Department intend to protect the right of a parent to care, raise, and educate their child?
A lawsuit contesting HB 1557 has already been filed in federal court, by lawyers from Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, and the National Center for Lesbians’ Rights.
“Over time and continuing today, our nation has strived to make good on its promise that everyone is entitled to be treated with equal dignity under the law. That is true when it comes to LGBTQ Americans, who now have the constitutional right to identify openly as LGBTQ, to marry, and to form families with children,” said Roberta Kaplan, founding partner of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP. “With the passage of HB 1557, Florida has not only taken a giant step backwards, but it has done so at the expense of our children, the most vulnerable members of society. It is hard to imagine anything more offensive to our constitutional system than treating one group of school kids as second class based solely on who they are or who their parents are. This law cannot be allowed to stand.”