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Florida lawmaker withdraws measure requiring schools to 'out' gay students

Attendees celebrate the Sunday Pride Parade & Festival in Miami Beach, Florida, on September 19, 2021. File Photo by Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA-EFE
Attendees celebrate the Sunday Pride Parade & Festival in Miami Beach, Florida, on September 19, 2021. File Photo by Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA-EFE

Feb. 22 (UPI) -- A Florida lawmaker who authored a controversial measure requiring school officials to report a child's sexual orientation to parents withdrew it Tuesday as debate was about to begin.

State Rep. Joe Harding, a Republican from Williston, Fla., withdrew his amendment less than an hour before the House of Representatives was set to consider the underlying Parental Rights in Education Act -- dubbed by critics as the "Don't Say Gay Bill."

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Its provisions are written to regulate in-school discussions of gender identity and provide parents with the power to sue educators deemed to be in violation.

The measure has been widely denounced by critics, including President Joe Biden, as "hateful," while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has voiced his support for the measure, saying it is "entirely inappropriate" for teachers to be having conversations with students about gender identity.

Under Harding's amendment, which was introduced Friday, school principals would have been forced to "out" their students to parents within six weeks of the student confiding to them that they are anything other than straight.

An earlier version of the bill left an exemption in cases where there was a suspicion of the information leading to abuse, neglect or abandonment, but that exception was removed under the amendment, WFLA-TV reported.

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Democratic lawmakers denounced the amendment at a news conference at the State Capitol in Tallahassee prior to Tuesday's session.

"This is the forced outing of an LGBTQ child to an unsupportive parent who is not ready," Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith told reporters.

Harding issued a statement to WESH-TV saying he withdrew the measure because the "exaggeration and misrepresentation in reporting about the amendment was a distraction."

"Nothing in the amendment was about outing a student," he said. "Rather than battle misinformation related to the amendment, I decided to focus on the primary bill that empowers parents to be engaged in their children's lives."

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