Controversial Florida education law on sexual orientation, gender identity could be expanded

A House Republican on Tuesday filed a proposal that would bar instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity through eighth grade, expanding a controversial 2022 law that prohibited such instruction in early grades. 

The eight-page bill (HB 1223) would also prevent school employees from telling students their preferred pronouns if they "do not correspond to his or her sex" or asking students about their preferred pronouns. 

Rep. Adam Anderson, R-Palm Harbor, filed the bill for consideration during the legislative session that will start March 7. The 2022 law prohibited instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and required it to be "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate" in higher grades. 


Under Anderson’s bill, the "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate" test would continue to apply in ninth through 12th grades. The 2022 law drew national debate, as supporters said it would help protect students and opponents disparagingly gave it the moniker "don’t say gay." Anderson’s bill would go beyond the instruction issues to address personal pronouns. The bill says that it "shall be the policy" of all public schools "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 LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality Florida quickly criticized the proposal and said the 2022 law was part of a "censorship agenda" driven by Gov. Ron DeSantis. "The DeSantis regime isn’t satisfied with a hostile takeover of traditional public schools. They envision a future where LGBTQ families have no school choice to find dignity or respect," Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s public policy director, said in a statement.