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Fact-check: Is Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' Bill About Sex Ed & Sex Acts?

Chidlren in school

Many have defended the proposed legislation as being about discussing sexual activities in elementary schools.


Over the past few weeks, Florida has been at the center of national attention over the Parental Rights in Education bills. Dubbed by critics as the "don't say gay" bills, the proposed legislation seeks to limit conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. While the discourse was arguably brought into national focus through Chasten Buttigieg's criticisms, it's led to a fierce debate and a series of protests and walkouts by Florida students, civil rights groups, and faith-based organizations.

Proponents of House Bill 1557 and Senate Bill 1834 -- the House and Senate versions of the bill -- argue that if passed, they would restrict inappropriate conversations about sex in classes. As the legislation heads to the desk of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has signaled he will sign it into law, we break down the facts.

What does the bill actually say?

Since first being submitted, the "don't say gay" bills have had 37 amendments submitted with only two passing. The most hotly debated aspect of HB 1557 mandates this:

"Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

Doesn't this mean the Parental Rights in Education bill is about discussion of sex acts in grades K-3?

No. As it stands, the proposed legislation never mentions sexual acts or sexual education. In fact, when Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes submitted an amendment to alter the text so that it banned all classroom discussion in K-3 about sex acts, his Republican colleagues voted him down.

Gov. Ron DeSantis's spokesperson Christina Pushaw made headlines over the weekend when she framed it as an "anti-grooming" bill and accused critics of being groomers -- adults who prepare children for sexual exploitation. When the bill's Senate sponsor, Dennis Baxley, was asked on the Senate floor whether this was a bill about grooming, he said it was not.

The idea that this bill is inherently about sexual acts is based on the idea that the existence and presence of LGBTQ+ people is inherently sexual. This is a standard that non-LGBTQ+ individuals are not held to. To posit that one can discuss a man and a woman together and that is fine but to discuss two men or two women is inherently sexual in nature is flatly unfounded. It says that the mere presence of queerness is objectionable. Historically, these ideas have been used to bar the LGBTQ+ community from jobs as well as adoption, inextricably linking the community to deviancy. Unsurprisingly, in 2010 Florida became the last state to allow same-sex couples to adopt, with many opponents using the same talking points.

"Protecting the children" has been a largely unfounded shield weaponized against the LGBTQ+ community as well as various other marginalized communities for decades.

It is also important to note that this bill does not only have ramifications for those in grades K-3. In grades 3-12, it also puts restrictions into state statutes, which is unusual in education.

If the Parental Rights in Education bill isn't about sex ed, what is it about?

In debate on the Senate floor, Baxley spoke about what led him to propose the legislation. In conversation, he said that he had recently been concerned about the rising number of students coming out as LGBTQ+ while still in school.

"Why is everybody now all about coming out when you are in school?" he said. "There really is a dynamic of concern about how much of this are genuine type of experiences and how many of them are just kids trying on different kinds of things they hear about and different kinds of identities and experimenting.

"That's what kids do, you know," he continued. "Maybe they're in this club or they're in that club or they're onto this. And they're trying on these different identities of life trying to see where they fit in. I said am I crazy or what? All of a sudden we're having all these issues come up about this topic of their sexuality and gender. I don't understand why that's such a big wave right now."

To that point, the bill seeks to ban not only conversations about sexual orientation but gender identity through grade 3. The reason: to stop students from experimenting to see whether or not they may be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Baxley was not able to provide any current examples that show the necessity of the law. Though he mentioned school clubs might be the source of the increase, the legislation does not preclude students from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in after-school clubs. Baxley confirmed this on the floor.

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Mikelle Street

Mikelle Street is the former editorial director of digital for PrideMedia, guiding digital editorial across The Advocate, Out,, Out Traveler, and Plus. He has written cover stories on Ricky Martin, Jeremy O. Harris, Law Roach, and Symone.
Mikelle Street is the former editorial director of digital for PrideMedia, guiding digital editorial across The Advocate, Out,, Out Traveler, and Plus. He has written cover stories on Ricky Martin, Jeremy O. Harris, Law Roach, and Symone.