The Florida Senate sent a series of legislation to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk that would expand the state's "don't say gay" law and require people use bathrooms that correspond with their sex at birth. File Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI | License Photo
May 4 (UPI) -- The Republican-controlled Senate in Florida passed legislation that would again expand the controversial "don't say gay" law that has restricted gender-related discussions in public schools since last summer.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign House Bill 1069 into law after it passed the Senate Wednesday on a 27-12 party line vote, with Democrats blasting the measure as an effort to "legislate away the gay" with only two days remaining in the session.
DeSantis was also set to sign HB 1521 -- a separate Republican bill that would make it a crime to use a public bathroom that does not match up with a person's sex at birth in schools, public shelters, healthcare facilities, and jails. However, Democrats won a concession from the majority to exclude restrooms in restaurants, gas stations and other businesses.
Another GOP-sponsored bill arriving on the governor's desk this week would ban funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs in schools as DeSantis sought to deliver on his conservative agenda while considering a run for the White House in 2024.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, condemned Florida's Senate for passing HB 1521, and SB 1320, which "silences educators by prohibiting any instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from Pre-K through 8th grade," the organization said in a statement.
The latest Republican effort on the "don't say gay" law is intended to broaden the Parental Rights in Education Act by further restricting pronoun preferences that students and teachers can legally use and discuss inside public schools.
The legislation requires all public schools in the state to adopt policies that would ensure "a person's sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person's sex."
Teachers and other school employees would also be banned from discussing preferred pronouns in all grades.
The bill, which passed the House 77-35 in April, follows a decision last month by the Florida Department of Education that expanded the rule to high schools after the state banned discussing identity and sexual orientation in primary grade classrooms last July.
Advocates of the newest bill say it empowers parents to make adult decisions for children who are too young to make their own life choices.
"This legislation will protect the rights of parents to have a say in their children's education and ensure that students are not subjected to inappropriate material," said Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, who sponsored the bill.
Violations could lead to suspensions for students and teachers could have their educational licenses revoked.
Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Davie, assailed the Republican bill, saying it "marginalizes children" and disrespects teachers.
"This bill insults the professionalism of educators. It takes away freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom to be treated equally in our public schools," she said.