Updated Mar 22, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis administration moves to expand "Don't Say Gay" law in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on March 10. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's (R) administration is moving to prohibit classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for all grades.

Driving the news: The proposal expands last year's Parental Rights in Education Act — dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by critics and doesn't require legislative approval, per the AP.

Zoom out: The new proposal comes amid a string of anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed the state's legislative session so far this year, along with further bans on gender-affirming care and restrictions on drag performances.

The big picture: DeSantis has become a champion for conservative cultural issues, gearing up for a potential 2024 presidential run that would pit him against former President Trump.

  • The governor came out victorious in a feud with Disney over the corporation's criticism of the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and signed a law giving the state control over Disney World's self-governing district.

Details: The amendment, put forth by the state Education Department, would expand the ban of instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity to students beyond pre-kindergarten through third grade.

  • For grades 4-12, such instruction will be prohibited unless "expressly required" by state academic standards or as part of a reproductive health lesson, for which a student’s parent has the option to have their child opt out.

What they're saying: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday said the proposal is "completely, utterly wrong."

  • She called it "part of a disturbing and dangerous trend that we’re seeing across the country of legislations that are anti LGBTQI+..."
  • When asked for comment, DeSantis spokesperson Bryan Griffin directed Axios to a tweet saying, "There is no reason for instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to be part of K-12 public education. Full stop."
  • When asked for comment, the Florida Department of Education directed Axios to a tweet by state education commissioner Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. echoing similar sentiments to Griffin.

What's next: The proposal is scheduled to be voted on next month before Florida's Board of Education.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are looking to ban the use of preferred pronouns for students and teachers in Florida schools.

Of note: Months after the Parental Rights in Education Act went into effect last July, schools started making changes to avoid violating the legislation amid increased scrutiny, Axios' Selene San Felice reports.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional details throughout.

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