Feb 24, 2022 - Politics

Florida House passes "Don't Say Gay" and "Stop WOKE" bills

Brandon Wolf speaks with Rep. Michele Rayner's hand on his shoulder
Equality Florida spokesperson Brandon Wolf talks about surviving the Pulse nightclub shooting as Rep. Michele Rayner places a hand on his shoulder. Screenshot: The Florida Channel

Florida Republicans got two major wins Thursday when lawmakers passed the "Stop WOKE Act" and what critics call the "Don't Say Gay" bill through the House.

State of Play: HB7, aka "Stop WOKE," sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Miami Springs), essentially seeks to ban classroom discussion and corporate trainings that make students or employees feel discomfort over their race.

  • HB1557, proposed by Rep. Joe Harding (R-Ocala) and dubbed "Don't Say Gay," would limit classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity while encouraging parents to sue schools or teachers that engage in these topics.
  • Versions of both bills are also advancing in the Senate.

Why it matters: The bills, both backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, are now one step closer to becoming law.

  • DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw told Axios the governor wants to read the full bills before possibly signing, but he's supportive of "parents' rights and transparency in education."
  • “Normalizing the practice of schools hiding information about a child from their parents is dangerous,” Pushaw said.

The other side: Democrats are calling the bills a coordinated effort to censor honest dialogue about systemic racism, gender and race discrimination in the classroom.

What they're saying: "Today is a very dark day in Florida's history," Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) told reporters after the vote. "We did everything we could but today was a day when politics won over policy. Politics won over people."

  • Equality Florida spokesperson Brandon Wolf wept as he told his story of surviving the Pulse nightclub shooting, where two of his best friends were killed. Stories of the 49 LBGTQ people who died there, he said, deserve to be told in the classroom.
  • "You cannot erase us. … Our call now is to the folks in the Senate chamber. … Now is your opportunity to say enough to this governor's authoritarian out-of-control agenda."

In a statement, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said, "Today, Florida is one step closer to ensuring that our schools and workplaces are spaces where we can have healthy instruction and conversation about race and diversity without losing sight that we are first and foremost individuals."

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