How Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Would Impact LGBTQ Students

Classroom desks with a rainbow overlay


What you need to know about the rapidly advancing measure that’s sparking concerns.

A measure that would ban conversations about gender and sexual identity in elementary schools is rapidly advancing through Florida’s state legislature, and it’s prompting some serious alarm.

On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee approved SB 1834 — also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — after versions of it passed a Florida House committee in January, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared to signal support for the measure.

In response to Tuesday’s vote, the White House and the president condemned the legislation, calling it a political move. 

“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” Biden tweeted on Tuesday. “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”

What would “Don’t Say Gay” do?

Under this bill, Florida school districts “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.”

While the bill doesn’t specify what’s considered “age-appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate,” Sen. Dennis Baxley, who proposed the bill, said it’s intended for kids ages 3 through the third grade

It would also allow parents to sue schools for not telling them about certain decisions “affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or wellbeing.” 

The measure is also hardly a first: Tennessee lawmakers have introduced a similar measure that would ban talk of “LGBTQ lifestyle issues” in public schools.  

How are LGBTQ activists responding?

While supporters say the bill is about keeping the topics out of the curriculum and not out of general classroom conversation, opponents warn that it would further stigmatize gay, lesbian, and transgender children — or worse, put them at higher risk of suicide. (LGBTQ youth are more than three times more likely to try taking their own lives compared to their peers, and that goes up to six times more likely for trans children.)

“It tells youth who are different or whose families are different that there’s something wrong with them out of the gate, and I do think that contributes to the shocking levels of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN.

Equality Florida, a group advocating for ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, warned that the bill would also make  “teachers fearful of providing a safe, inclusive classroom.”

What’s next? 

After this latest approval, the bill is now heading over to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The same bill is also poised for a final vote in Florida’s House of Representatives, where it’s jointly filed, but no timeline for that has been decided yet.