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South Florida students opposed to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill head to Tallahassee ahead of Senate vote – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

South Florida students opposed to 'Don't Say Gay' bill head to Tallahassee ahead of Senate vote – WSVN 7News |  Miami News, Weather, Sports

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (WSVN) – Dozens of local students who oppose a state bill that would ban “in-class discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity” in Florida elementary schools are heading to Tallahassee from Miami-Dade County as controversial legislation moves closer to becoming law.

7News cameras captured the group at a rally outside the Friendship Torch in downtown Miami before they departed by bus to the state capitol on Sunday evening.

“We say gay! We say gay!” chanted the demonstrators.

Critics of the bill call it the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill.

“The bill prohibits classroom instruction on any group of people, including homosexuals,” Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith said.

Proponents call it by its official name, Parental Rights in Education. It passed the Florida House in a vote of 69 to 47 on February 24.

The bill will then go to the Senate for a final vote. If he passes, he will be sent to the office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava was present at the rally in downtown Miami to greet the protesters.

“It’s shameful what’s happening in Tallahassee. So many ways that they try to take away our rights, our human rights,” she said, “and these young people get on a bus and drive all night to tell them, ‘Enough is enough.’

Lawmakers who support the bill have said it does not ban the word “gay.”

“Nowhere on our bill do we prohibit any discussion a student might have regarding any family variations and what they may be like,” Florida State Representative Joe Harding said.

Since its introduction by Harding and a Republican state senator, controversy has surrounded the bill’s wording.

“You actually look at the bill, and it says, ‘No sex instruction from kindergarten to [third grade]“, said DeSantis.

But that’s not exactly what the bill says.

On page 4 it says: “In-class instruction by school staff or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a way that is not appropriate for the age or development of the students.

Opponents said that was the real problem: that the LGBTQ community was singled out.

“This bill places no restrictions on classroom instruction or sex education or sexual activity. Instead, it censors classroom teaching or discussion of a group of people,” Smith said.

But supporters said the bill’s parental rights focus is key. The bill would also set new rules for health care, health screenings and questionnaires given to children, and allow parents to sue if they believe the school has violated their rights.

“We believe the best environment for a student is one where the parent is empowered and involved and working alongside the school district,” Harding said.

The debate became even more contentious over the weekend, when DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw tweeted, “The bill liberals mistakenly call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would more accurately be described as an anti-grooming bill.”

In a tweet responding to Pushaw’s comments, Smith wrote, “DeSantis’ spokesperson has openly accused opponents of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ of being groomers, aka pedophiles. Cult attacks like this against LGBTQ people are the worst of the worst. They are disgusting and dangerous and have no place in the governor’s office.

Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones of Miami Gardens, who represents the state’s 35th district, also expressed disapproval of Pushaw’s tweet.

On Monday, Florida state senators will hear questions about the bill and are expected to vote on Tuesday. It appears that the bill has enough support from senators to pass.

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