Florida Senator Issues Apology After Saying 'Gay Is Not a Permanent Thing'

Republican Florida Senator Ileana Garcia issued an apology on Thursday after she said on the Senate floor that "gay is not a permanent thing."

"As a Senator, and more importantly, as a life-long member of this community, I fully understand the responsibility and impact of words on others. That's why I want to apologize to anyone I offended by my comments on the floor of the Senate during the debate on HB 1557, Parental Rights in Education," she said in a statement posted on Twitter.

House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, passed in the Republican-controlled Florida Senate on March 8 after it was approved by the state's House of Representatives.

Senator Garcia was discussing the bill ahead of the vote on March 8 when she stated, "Gay is not a permanent thing, LGBT is not a permanent thing—and it's not a bad thing. This isn't at all about targeting. I think this is about rerouting the responsibilities back to the parents."

In her statement on Thursday, Garcia clarified that her comments "in no way were intended to generalize or disregard the experiences of any member of the LGBT+ community. I was trying to explain my very personal life experiences and did not properly articulate my sentiments."

The legislation, which was dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, prohibits discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in certain school grades in Florida, objectives that Garcia still defended in her statement on Thursday.

"I do not believe that our school system should instruct children in Kindergarten – 3rd grade about sexual identity or sexual orientation. I strongly believe it's a discussion that should be at the discretion of the parent," she said.

She continued: "My failed attempt to convey the complexity and nuances of this matter in no way diminish the fact that the Parental Rights legislation is first and foremost about allowing children to be children and giving parents the right to guide their childhood."

"I would respectfully argue that the purposeful mischaracterization of the legislation and false relabeling of the bill confirms the urgent need to give every parent control over the education of their child," she added.

She also claimed that she is aware that her words will be used by some to "advance a partisan agenda or a false narrative" and pointed out that she received "threats of physical harm" last week for backing the legislation.

LGBTQ advocates slammed the Florida senator for her comments last week as some protested at her local legislative office, according to Politico.

"We are blessed to live in a richly diverse community, and this experience has shown me that we are called to better empathize with those around us and make certain that our words are considerate, especially when we disagree," she concluded.

Garcia was also criticized for misgendering a friend who is transgender as she spoke about experiences of some LGBTQ individuals that she knows, according to ABC affiliate WPLG.

She said during the Senate session while defending the bill that "a very good friend of mine, trans, went through the whole transition as an older man—at 58 years old, became a woman. Guess what? He still likes women."

"He went through the whole process and we'd laugh together and I'd say, 'Why do you want to deal with the hormones? Why do you want to have to worry about the extensions in the hair and the boobs and the nails?' And he loved it, and when he went through the transition and had a sexual experience...he realized that he continued to like women."

Newsweek contacted Equality Florida for comments and will update the story once a response is received.

Florida Senator Issues Apology over LGBTQ-related statement
Republican Florida Senator Ileana Garcia issued an apology on Thursday after she said on the Senate floor last week that "gay is not a permanent thing." Above, individuals protesting outside Garcia's office in Coral Gables, Florida, on March 9. Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images