SPRING HILL, Fla. - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the "Parental Rights in Education Act" into law during a visit to Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill. The bill bars instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for young public-school students.
It is one of the more hotly-contested pieces of legislation drafted this session in Tallahassee. Critics have referred to it as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, adding that it sends "a message of hate" to Floridians. Meanwhile, supporters say it would bolster parental rights.
The proposal would require that instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity "may not occur" in kindergarten through third grade. For higher grade levels, the proposal calls for such instruction to be age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate as determined by state academic standards.
DeSantis signed HB-1557 from the Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill. The school describes itself as providing traditional classical and liberal arts education from kindergarten to 12th grade.
"Shouldn’t parents know if that is something in the curriculum? They should have a voice in that. In Florida, we not only know that parents have a right to be involved, we insist that parents have a right to be involved," he said before those in attendance applauded.
The signing comes one day after the cohosts of the 94th Academy Awards took aim at the piece of legislation, which critics have called the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
"If the people who held up degenerates like Harvey Weinstein up as exemplars and as heroes…if those are the types of people who are opposing us on parents’ rights, I wear that as a badge of honor," DeSantis said. I don’t care what Hollywood says…Here I stand. I’m not backing down."
The bill drew protests from LGBTQ-advocacy groups and has been the subject of headlines nationally. Last week, Disney workers planned walkouts to protest CEO Bob Chapek’s slow response as the bill moved through the state legislature.
Statements by Disney leadership over the Florida legislation "have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation," the group said.
As the state’s largest private-sector employer — Walt Disney World outside Orlando had more than 75,000 workers before the coronavirus pandemic — Disney has contributed huge amounts of money to Florida’s political parties and politicians and has wielded incredible influence on the state’s government.
Rather than make an early public statement against the legislation, company officials had been working behind the scenes with Florida lawmakers "to achieve a better outcome," but they hadn’t been successful, despite "our longstanding relationships with those lawmakers," Chapek told Disney shareholders a few days later.
"I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community," Chapek said in a message to Disney workers. "I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve."
Republican lawmakers pushing the legislation had argued that parents, not teachers, should be the ones talking to their children about gender issues during their early formative years. The legislation has attracted scrutiny from President Joe Biden, who called it "hateful," as well as other Democrats who argue it demonizes LGBTQ people.
"This (bill) doesn’t prevent that teacher from helping a student, from advising a student. What it does is specifically speak to planned instruction," Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, said in supporting the measure during the legislative session.
The News Service of Florida and Associated Press contributed to this report