Florida Legislature Passes Controversial “Don’t Say Gay” Law and Higher Education Restrictions

The Florida legislature has passed an expanded version of the controversial “don’t say gay” law, which imposes restrictions on in-classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation for all public school grade-levels.[0] The bill, which had been introduced by the Senate and passed by the House, will now go to Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk for signature. The move comes as part of a larger push by DeSantis and his supporters to denounce “woke” ideologies in education, which they claim are being used to silence dissenting voices.

The bill also includes measures to prevent colleges and universities from using funds for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.[1] This has been met with backlash from critics who argue that these efforts are important and that the legislation will drive away top faculty members and students.[2] House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, a Democrat from Tampa, said: “This attack on higher education is hurting Florida’s brand… But these radical changes risk throwing our colleges and universities into chaos.”

The bill received pushback from Democratic members of the House, but state GOP Rep. Alex Andrade said the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives this bill would affect have hurt both schools and students. However, critics of the bill argue that diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are important and that the legislation will harm both schools and students if the initiatives are blocked.

The bill that passed Wednesday also includes a series of higher-education changes, including requiring the State Board of Education and state university system’s Board of Governors to appoint faculty committees that would review general-education core courses.[1] The bill allows for courses to be potentially removed, aligned, realigned, or added based on a range of criteria, as indicated by the reviews.[1]

The bill has also sought to restrict the way teachers and students can use their preferred pronouns in schools, a provision that has drawn ire from LGBTQ-advocacy groups.[3] According to the Senate bill, the Board of Governors must conduct a review of tenured professors every five years.[4] There are 17 members on the board, with 14 being appointed by the Governor.[5]

Critics of the bill argue that it is an effort to “legislate away the gay” and that it will lead to a generation of ignorance by shielding children from the truth.[6] Supporters, however, claim that it will maintain an appropriate learning environment for all students and teachers, allowing teachers to focus on skills that help children succeed in life, rather than delving into every social issue.[7]

The bill now awaits Governor DeSantis’ consideration, and it is expected that he will sign it into law. The move has sparked a fierce debate about Florida’s higher-education system and campus speech, with proponents arguing that it will protect academic freedom, and critics saying it will harm diversity and inclusion efforts in schools and universities.[6]

0. “Ron DeSantis set to sign expansion of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to all public school grades” Daily Mail, 3 May. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12043811/Ron-DeSantis-set-sign-expansion-Dont-Say-Gay-law-public-school-grades.html

1. “House approves measure banning colleges from spending on ‘DEI’ initiatives” WCJB, 3 May. 2023, https://www.wcjb.com/2023/05/03/house-approves-measure-banning-colleges-spending-dei-initiatives

2. “Florida bans colleges and universities from financing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives” The Miami Times, 3 May. 2023, https://www.miamitimesonline.com/news/florida/florida-bans-colleges-and-universities-from-financing-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-initiatives/article_73fbcdea-e9ef-11ed-a165-2f9fc0b73d52.html

3. “Florida Senate votes to expand Parental Rights in Education law” CBS News, 3 May. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/florida-senate-votes-to-expand-parental-rights-in-education-law/

4. “Bill to remove DEI departments from public universities heads to DeSantis” Florida’s Voice, 3 May. 2023, https://flvoicenews.com/bill-to-remove-dei-departments-from-public-universities-heads-to-desantis/

5. “Florida Legislature votes to defund diversity programs” News 13 Orlando, 3 May. 2023, https://www.mynews13.com/fl/orlando/news/2023/05/03/florida-legislature-votes-to-defund-diversity–equity–and-inclusion-programs

6. “Bill would prevent colleges, universities from spending money on diversity initiatives” CBS News, 3 May. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/bill-would-prevent-colleges-universities-from-spending-money-on-diversity-initiatives

7. “Legislature approves tightening regulation of pronoun use at school” Florida Politics, 3 May. 2023, https://floridapolitics.com/archives/609380-legislature-approves-tightening-regulation-of-pronoun-use-at-school

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