Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed into law an expansion of his state’s ban on classroom instruction and discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The new measure, HB 1069, extends the reach of legislation referred to by opponents as “Don’t Say Gay” to cover pre-K to 8th grade rather than kindergarten to 3rd grade, as under the initial law passed last year.
The newly signed legislation also addresses pronoun use in schools, with a requirement for Florida’s public schools to adopt a policy that “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.”
The move comes as more bills are introduced across the U.S. to limit student pronoun use in schools. As of April 6, at least 43 pieces of legislation had been introduced across 24 state legislatures aiming to regulate student pronoun use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Additionally, there has been a recent surge in Republican state legislators proposing to expand “Don’t Say Gay” policies to higher grade levels.
DeSantis’ signing of HB 1069 is part of a broader legislative package called “Let Kids Be Kids,” which also limits students’ bathroom use to match the gender they were assigned at birth and outlaws gender-affirming healthcare for children. The Texas Legislature on Wednesday also approved a bill prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors. That bill is awaiting signature by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the American Civil Liberties Union and others have already promised to file a lawsuit if it is signed.
Inclusivity advocates say these policies directly target and harm LGBTQ+ youth.
Joe Saunders, senior political director of Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights advocacy group, said in a statement that DeSantis’ latest move has become “the largest slate of anti-LGBTQ bills in one legislative session in the state’s history.”
“Free states don’t ban books, censor curriculum, or muzzle free speech,” Saunders said.
In a statement, GLSEN Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers said DeSantis is trying to “erase LGBTQ+ people from existence.”
“He’s using vulnerable communities as political pawns in an attempt to gain power and further his own career,” Willingham-Jaggers said. “These laws will result in catastrophic consequences for LGBTQ+ Floridians, especially LGBTQ+ youth.”
However, DeSantis and leaders in his administration said these policies stand up for children and will keep them safe in Florida’s schools.
“Today’s actions make it clear — educators in Florida are expected to teach our standards, and not interject their own opinions or worldview into the classroom. The Department will remain focused on teaching students core subjects, rather than woke gender ideology or inappropriate topics,” said Manny Diaz, Jr., Florida’s education commissioner, in a statement.