Florida teachers have been banned from giving lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity to children under the age of nine.
Ron DeSantis, the state’s governor, signed the controversial “don’t say gay” bill into law on Monday.
The bill has drawn nationwide scrutiny from critics who say it marginalizes LGBTQ people.
It prohibits teaching children in kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The legislation pushed Florida and DeSantis, an emerging name in the Republican Party and a potential 2024 presidential candidate, at the forefront of the nation’s culture war.
LGBTQ advocates, students, Democrats, the entertainment industry and the White House have denounced its goals.
Mr. DeSantis and Republicans have repeatedly said the measure is reasonable and that parents, not teachers, should discuss topics of sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.
“We will ensure that parents can send their children to school to receive education, not indoctrination,” he said before signing the bill.
He and other speakers stood at a podium adorned with a sign reading “Protect Children/Support Parents”.
Critics say the bill is worded so vaguely that speech could be muzzled in public schools.
The legislation states: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity may not take place in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that does not is not appropriate for the age or development of the students in accordance with state standards.”
Parents could sue headteachers for breaking the law.
Public backlash began almost immediately after the bill was introduced, with initial criticism from Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and condemnation from LGBTQ advocacy groups.
Democratic President Joe Biden called it “hateful”.
As the bill progressed through the legislature, celebrities rallied against it on social media and it came under fire at the Oscars on Sunday night.
Florida students staged walkouts and crowded into committee rooms and state halls to protest the measure, often with chants of “We say gay!”
The Walt Disney Company, a powerful player in Florida politics, has suspended political donations in the state.
Its theme park employees staged walkouts over what they saw as a slow response against the bill by Bob Chapek, its chief executive.
After Mr. DeSantis signed the measure, the company issued a statement saying, “Our goal as a company is to have this law repealed by the legislature or struck down by the courts, and we remain committed to supporting organizations national and state governments working to achieve this.”
Teachers are afraid to speak
Throughout debates in the Republican-controlled state house, Democrats have said the bill’s language, particularly the phrases “classroom instruction” and “age-appropriate,” could be interpreted as so broadly that discussion in any school year could spark lawsuits and create a classroom atmosphere where teachers avoid topics altogether.
“The bill’s intentionally vague language leaves teachers afraid to speak to their students and opens school districts to costly and frivolous litigation from those who seek to exclude LGBTQ people from any grade level,” said state Rep. Carlos Smith, a gay Democrat.
“Worse still, #DontSayGay sends a hateful message to our most vulnerable young people who simply need our support.”
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