The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Biden calls Florida bill restricting LGBTQ discussion in schools ‘hateful’ after DeSantis signals support

In July, President Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) held a briefing with first responders and local officials after the condo collapse in Surfside, Fla. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

President Biden has slammed legislation proposed by Republicans in Florida that aims to restrict some discussions in the state’s schools about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Biden, in a tweet on Tuesday, called the proposal a “hateful bill” and said he would give his full support to the young people who may be affected. Critics have dubbed it the “Don’t say gay” bill — but supporters say it is about parental rights.

“I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve,” Biden wrote to the LGBTQ community.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) seemingly signaled his support for the bill on Monday, telling reporters at an event that some schools were holding conversations with students about gender and identity without involving parents.

“Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write, they need to teach them science, history. We need more civics and understanding the U.S. Constitution — what makes our country unique — all those basic stuff,” DeSantis said.

“Hiding things from the parent, you’re injecting these concepts about choosing your gender — that is just inappropriate for our schools, and so I don’t support that going on,” he said, adding: “I don’t think it’s going on in large numbers.”

DeSantis, who has championed his “stop-woke” agenda in Florida, spoke explicitly about the bill Tuesday, telling reporters that although he hadn’t yet seen the proposal: “I do think you’ve seen instances in which kids are encouraged to be doing stuff with, like, a gender ideology.” He added that parents needed to be better involved.

“I think most parents, they want to know what’s going on in the schools. They want to make sure that everything is age-appropriate. … I don’t want the schools to kind of be a playground for ideological disputes,” he said.

Officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill, it states that “a school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” If it becomes law, parents would also be empowered to sue if they think schools are violating its terms.

The measure, which is still in the committee phase along with a related bill introduced in the state House of Representatives, has drawn condemnation from activist groups who say it would marginalize LGBTQ children and families and stifle discussions.

“From banning books and electronic monitoring of teachers to white-washing history and allowing the state to dictate our health care decisions, DeSantis is committed to an agenda of censorship and surveillance that intrudes on all aspects of our lives,” Nadine Smith, executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Florida, said Monday in a statement.

Smith said DeSantis was utilizing “anti-LGBTQ legislation as a springboard to serve his national political ambitions” and seeking to “shore up his extremist base.”

Legislation is written and sponsored by state representatives and senators, not the governor, officials from DeSantis’s office told The Post in a statement Wednesday — reiterating that he had not yet read the bill and would not be able to take a position until he had reviewed it in full.

Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley, who sponsored the proposal, told lawmakers in his chamber’s Education Committee on Tuesday that the bill wouldn’t forbid spontaneous discussions but would bar districts from incorporating LGBTQ topics into the curriculum.

“Some discussions are for with your parents. And I think when you start opening sexual-type discussions with children, you’re entering a very dangerous zone,” Baxley said, according to the Associated Press.

In his fight against ‘woke’ schools, DeSantis tears at the seams of a diverse Florida

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news conference Tuesday that conservative politicians in Florida had “rejected” basic values by advancing legislation “designed to target and attack the kids who need support the most — kids from the LGBTQI+ community who are already vulnerable to bullying.”

Psaki acknowledged that it was relatively rare for the White House to weigh in on state-level legislation but said the administration “felt it was important to speak out against this action.”

“Make no mistake: This is not an isolated action in Florida. Across the country, we’re seeing Republican leaders taking action to regulate what students can or cannot read, what they can or cannot learn, and most troubling, who they can or cannot be,” Psaki added.

Last month, Chasten Buttigieg, an educator and husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, lambasted the bill, saying it could lead to more suicides among LGBTQ youths. Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay person to be confirmed to a Cabinet position in the United States, and last year, the couple announced the adoption of twins.

In a tweet, Chasten Buttigieg said the Florida legislation “will kill kids,” pointing to a recent survey by the Trevor Project, an advocacy group, which found that 42 percent of LGBTQ youths seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year.

Chasten Buttigieg speaks out against Florida’s ‘Don’t say gay bill,’ warning it could lead to more suicides

For more than a year, angry parents in Florida — who began by protesting mask mandates — have been crowding into school board meetings objecting to lesson plans that touch on race, gender or sexual orientation. Following a local campaign, Florida’s Polk County Public Schools removed 16 books from libraries for review, including “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan.

Loading...