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DeSantis signs 'Don't Say Gay' expansion and gender-affirming care ban

The new Florida measures will expand what critics call the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law through eighth grade and restrict transition-related care for minors.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks onstage at Liberty University
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., in April 14.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed four bills Wednesday restricting LGBTQ rights, including a measure that expands what critics have called the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and another that will ban transition-related care for minors.

He also signed a bill that will bar trans people from using the public facilities that align with their gender identities and another that will restrict “adult” performances in front of minors. He said the latter measure was intended to limit drag performances.

In March 2022, DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, which prohibits “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” 

The new measure prohibits sexual orientation or gender identity instruction in prekindergarten through eighth grade, restricts reproductive health education in sixth through 12th grade, and requires that reproductive health instruction “be age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The bill applies to both public and charter schools.

Among its provisions, the bill requires schools to teach “that sex is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth; that biological males impregnate biological females by fertilizing the female egg with male sperm; that the female then gestates the offspring; and that these reproductive roles are binary, stable, and unchangeable.” 

The bill bars schools from requiring students or employees to refer to each other with pronouns that do not align with their assigned sex at birth. It will also prohibit trans school employees from sharing their pronouns with students.

During a press conference Wednesday, DeSantis said the bill “makes sure that Florida students and teachers will never be forced to declare pronouns in school or be forced to use pronouns not based on biological sex.”

“We never did this through all of human history until like, what, two weeks ago?” DeSantis said of people using pronouns that are different than those associated with their assigned sex. “Now this is something, they’re having third graders declare pronouns. We’re not doing the pronoun Olympics in Florida. It’s not happening here.”

DeSantis also signed a bill that bans transition-related care for minors in the state, joining 18 other states where governors have signed similar legislation. The measure codifies restrictions on care in the state, which were initially passed by the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine in March. 

The bill DeSantis signed, effective immediately, will grant Florida temporary custody of children whose parents provide them with gender-affirming care. The measure would also bar the use of public funds to cover such care for anyone, including adults. Health care providers who violate the measure could face a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

DeSantis said the law will “outlaw the mutilation of minors,” though most major medical associations in the U.S. — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association — oppose such restrictions. 

“You have actually some states in this country that want to be a haven for these types of procedures and even welcome minors without their parents consent and to some of their jurisdiction,” DeSantis said of the 10 states that have passed measures protecting trans health care. “We’re obviously doing the opposite here.” 

DeSantis also signed a measure that prohibits establishments from having children at an “adult live performance.” Though the bill doesn’t specifically name drag performances, DeSantis said Wednesday the law is intended to restrict them.

“There’s these adult performances, these drag shows, sexually explicit,” he said. “What they’re doing is adult entertainment. People can do what they want with some of that, but to have minors there, I mean, you’ll have situations where you’ll have like an 8-year-old girl there, where you have these like really explicit shows, and that is just inappropriate.” 

DeSantis noted that Florida’s has taken administrative action against against multiple venues and restaurants that have held drag performances with minors in attendance, “but the reality is we needed the legislature to come in and really clarify that if you are an establishment that’s having adult performances, you have an obligation to make sure that these young kids are not permitted in the premises, and we’re going to hold you accountable.”

Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the executive director of GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQ students, said in a statement that DeSantis “is trying to turn back the clock on progress and erase LGBTQ+ people from existence.” 

“He’s using vulnerable communities as political pawns in an attempt to gain power and further his own career,” Willingham-Jaggers said. “We know that inclusive curriculum and LGBTQ+ representation benefits all students, and every single major medical association in the U.S. supports gender-affirming care for youth. As Floridians continue to face attacks on their education, health care and bodily autonomy, we’re calling on legislators, advocates and allies to rise up with us and support LGBTQ+ youth.”

Florida teachers have said they removed books from their classrooms and decided not to form LGBTQ clubs as a result of the first iteration of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. One teacher, Jenna Barbee, said on social media Saturday that she is being investigated by her school and the state’s Education Department after showing her fifth grade students “Strange World,” a Disney animated movie featuring an openly gay character. 

CORRECTION (May 17, 2023, 10:30 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when DeSantis signed the so-called Don’t Say Gay bill into law. He signed it in March 2022, not last March.