Florida lawmakers have voted to expand the state’s archaic ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. 

Back in March, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the horrific bill into law after it was passed by conservative lawmakers in the House and Senate.

Under the harmful bill, teachers and schools are barred from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

While the legislation only affects students between kindergarten and third grade, lawmakers in the state have recently made moves to expand the harmful law. 

On 31 March, Florida’s Republican-led House of Representatives approved an extension of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill with a 77 to 35 vote.

Under the new bill (HB 1069), conversations surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation would be banned up to eighth grade. 

The hateful legislation would also make it compulsory for school officials and staff to disregard trans and non-binary students’ gender identity and desired pronouns.

Lastly, parents would also be given more leeway in regard to challenging inclusive educational material or books that are presented in school. 

While debating the bill, House Democrats slammed Republican lawmakers for introducing an extension that would further harm LGBTQ+ students and teachers. 

“Teachers have literally taken bullets for their students. They do everything they can to keep them safe,” said Democratic Rep. Rita Harris (per AP News). 

“They are not indoctrinating our kids. They are heroes, not villains. And this bill causes more of these incredible educators to leave the profession and some of them to leave the state.” 

Rep. Angie Nixon echoed similar sentiments, stating: “Look, the LGBTQ+ community isn’t going away, trans people aren’t going away. What has gone away, that I pray comes back, is human decency.” 

In response to the troubling news, various LGBTQ+ activists and organisations have slammed the House for passing the anti-LGBTQ+ extension. 

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign’s Legislative Counsel Courtnay Avant said: “LGBTQ+ youth are already struggling with the weight of discrimination both inside and outside of the classroom. HB 1069 does nothing to alleviate the burdensome stigma and isolation that they face.

“Instead, this impossible-to-comply-with bill intentionally blocks teachers from providing the safe and inclusive spaces that LGBTQ+ youth so desperately need.” 

The House’s vote also resulted in LGBTQ+ activists protesting the bill in and near Florida’s Capitol building.

In one of the protest videos, people were heard chanting, “Hey hey. Ho ho. Ron DeSantis has got to go.” 

With HB 1069 officially passed in the House, attention has now shifted to a Senate version of the bill – which will be voted on after it goes through one final committee hearing.