Florida Republicans pass school bills on pronouns and diversity programs


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Republicans on Wednesday passed bills banning diversity programs in colleges and preventing students and teachers from having to use pronouns that do not correspond to a person’s biological sex, building on the top priorities of the Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

The two proposals finally passed the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate. DeSantis is expected to sign the bills into law.

DeSantis, who is expected to announce a presidential campaign in the coming weeks, has taken a hard line conservative agenda while trying to bolster support from Republican primary voters ahead of his White House run.

The state Legislative Session, due to end this week, was dominated by divisive cultural issues, with DeSantis Republican allies approving its priority bills on sexual orientation, gender identity, race and education designed to assist the governor in his presidential bid.

The Senate voted on Wednesday to expand the call for legal critics.” don’t say gay‘, a major calling card for DeSantis, with a sweeping bill preventing school staff or students from being asked to refer to people with pronouns that don’t match the person’s biological sex.

It also bans the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation up to the 8th grade, thereby legally reinforcing a DeSantis Administration move to ban this teaching in all classes. In addition, the bill strengthens the system for people to file disputes against textbooks, another DeSantis initiative that has led to the removal of material he and his supporters argue is inappropriate for children.

Republicans said the bill aims to protect children from sexualized content and reiterates that teachers should adhere to existing state curricula.

“You see society coming at our children in a culture war designed to confuse them,” Republican Senator Erin Grall said. “We deprive children of the opportunity to find out who they are when we force children to have an agenda, a sexualized agenda.”

Separately, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed priority DeSantis legislation that bans colleges from using state or federal funds for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.

Such initiatives, sometimes dubbed DEI, have come under increasing criticism from Republicans who argue the programs are racially divisive.

Republican lawmakers in at least a dozen states have proposed more than 30 bills this year targeting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education Associated Press analysis found with Plural invoice tracking software.

“They want to believe in the same thing by heart. They say they want inclusion, but they won’t unless you believe what they believe,” said Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican. “These programs are deployed across the country. Imagine how great our universities will be if we’re the only ones who aren’t.”

The House of Representatives also approved a proposal to ban people who do not match their sex from entering bathrooms, a bill targeting transgender bathroom use.

In the Statehouse, Democrats, who have no power to stop Republican legislation, have increasingly begun to comment on the GOP’s shift to the right in politics.

“The message coming out of this chamber in recent years is one of hate, exclusion and punishment,” said Democratic Senator Jason Pizzo. “There is very little grace and very little compassion.”

Associated Press writer Curt Anderson of St. Petersburg, Fla. contributed to this report.

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