Florida’s House of Representatives passed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and set the much-maligned law up for a final vote despite widespread disapproval among voters.
As lawmakers passed a final version of the bill on Tuesday, a poll showed around a third of voters (34 per cent) supporting the legislation “somewhat or strongly”.
The findings published by the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at the University of North Florida (UNF) meanwhile found a “majority of respondents”, or 57 per cent, in opposition to the bill “either strongly or somewhat”.
The “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, as it’s referred to by critics, has been condemned by Democrats, parents and the White House, which has described the legislation as “hateful”. If it becomes law, it will censor conversations about homosexuality and gender identity in Florida’s classrooms.
Lawmakers argued about the bill on Tuesday, with US Democratic Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz alleging: “Those who are now considering whether to vote for this hate-driven bill must reckon with an all-but-certain reality”.
“If this ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill becomes law, its isolating impacts will ensure that even more vulnerable LGBTQ+ children will suffer, and some will die,” argued Ms Wasserman Schultz, in reference to figures from LGBT+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project.
The group found that LGBT+ youth are four times more likely to seriously consider, plan or attempt suicide than their peers, while those who learned about LGBT+ issues in schools were meanwhile less likely to do so.
Classroom conversations about homosexuality and gender identity for children in “kindergarten through grade 3” would however be forbidden in Florida, as well as in circumstances “that is not age appropriate”, following the final passing of the bill.
Critics argue that the bill’s wording would stop discussions of LGBT+ issues at any age, with parents able to “bring an action against a school district” and award damages for any apparent violation.
Republican lawmaker Joe Harding, the sponsor of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has meanwhile defended his proposals from criticism and has said spontaneous discussions about LGBT+ topics would be allowed.
Mr Harding said on Tuesday that the legislation was designed to stop the subjects being inserted into the curriculum. That is despite widely recognised anniversaries such as LGBT+ history month being marked in the US for decades.
Dr Michael Binder, a UNF political science professor and director of PORL, added on Tuesday: “Support for the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is only about 40 per cent, despite it being passed in the State Senate last week”.
“When we break it down by party registration, we see 54 per cent of Republicans supporting the bill, which is more in line with Florida’s Republican- controlled legislature.”
Hundreds of activists and community members centred on the Florida State Capitol Tallahassee on Tuesday as lawmakers voted. The bill now heads to the House floor for a full vote on Thursday.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies