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LGBTQ advocates fight 'Don't Say Gay' bill ahead of Thursday committee hearing

'This is outrageous pandering with real-world consequences,' says Jon Maurer with LGBTQ civil rights group Equality Florida
Posted at 6:48 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 18:48:59-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — LGBTQ advocates fought back against what they call the "Don’t Say Gay" bill at the state Capitol Tuesday morning.

Protesters were trying to heighten public outrage against the bill, which they consider "dangerous" and "bigoted." The group held signs reading the "censorship state" and charged Republicans with putting politics over people.

"This is outrageous pandering with real-world consequences," said Jon Maurer with LGBTQ civil rights group Equality Florida.

The effort comes as GOP lawmakers continue to advance the policy which bans discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary classrooms.

Jon Maurer, Equality Florida
Jon Maurer was among those who spoke against the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Todd Delmay was among those denouncing the bill, which gives parents the right to sue if districts violate provisions. The gay Florida father considered the fight personal.

"It creates a censorship — a real secrecy," Delmay said. "If this bill were to pass — would we even be allowed in the classroom? Just our very existence of being there — it's very personal."

Tuesday's protest was the latest attempt to pressure lawmakers to drop the policy before it reaches Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk.

It comes on the heels of Equality Florida's new ad— now running in the state.

Democrats, meanwhile, continue to attack both versions of the bill in House and Senate committees.

"This is not what happens in a free state," said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park. "This is what happens in authoritarian regimes."

The GOP majority hasn't backed down, however.

The policy faces two more committees in the Senate and one in the House. Leaders have scheduled that meeting for Thursday at 3 p.m.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith speaks out against the "Don't Say Gay" bill
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith has been a vocal opponent of the bill.

Republicans have said the bill protects parents' rights and keeps them in charge of a student's education, records and well-being while at school.

"These children do not belong to the state. They belong to families," said Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, said recently. "Without their involvement, there is no success for children."

Baxley, who's sponsoring the upper chamber's bill, said he was targeting K-third graders and curriculum, not conversation.

Baxley said last week he was open to changes after GOP colleagues voiced concern current language was too broad.

"If they can make it better, I'm all for a group project," Baxley said.

The "Don’t Say Gay" bill was just one of several policies opponents were labeling as "censorship" legislation under consideration this year.

They also took issue with DeSantis' goal to ban critical race theory in schools and businesses, calling the bill's language too vague, worrying it would chill race education.