What Does the Don't Say Gay Bill Mean? Controversial DeSantis Law Explained

After weeks of public debate regarding the controversial legislation nicknamed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on Monday.

The bill, known formally as HB 1557, became a topic of national attention after it was first filed in January, as activists condemned the bill, stating it would cause harm to LGBTQ+ students in school environments as it stands against the teaching of sexual orientation for children in schools between the ages of 5 to 9.

Many in protest of the bill led public school and employee walkouts, and major leaders of corporations like Disney and celebrities alike have publicly denounced it.

But the debate has flourished as others assert that HB 1557 gives parents the authority over their children's education, stating that there is more to it than what the "Don't Say Gay" bill implies. So what does this bill mean?

Opponents began calling it the "Don't Say Gay" bill due to the fact that the bill prohibits "classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner."

According to the bill's official text, "The bill reinforces a parent's fundamental right to make decisions regarding the care and upbringing of his or her child in the public school setting."

The bill's entire seven pages essentially establish into law the idea that "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

The bill also "prohibits a school district from maintaining procedures that require school district personnel to withhold from a parent, or encourage a student to withhold, information related to a student's mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being."

Instead, the text says, school districts may withhold information from a parent only if there is "a reasonable belief that disclosure would subject the student to abuse, abandonment, or neglect."

HB 1557 also requires Florida school districts to alert parents of any healthcare services that are offered to the student "regardless of age or circumstance," "and provide parents the opportunity to individually consent to, or decline, each service."

Additionally," the text added, "schools may not administer a well-being questionnaire or health screening form to a student in kindergarten through grade 3 without first receiving consent from the student's parent."

Parents now legally have the ability to sue the school district if they believe any of these regulations have been broken or violated in any way.

Governor Ron DeSantis' press office forwarded a statement to Newsweek, saying, "The bill is about parental rights, and parents have the right to make education and health decisions for their kids."

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill on Monday, saying to those in the room, "We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination," according to the Associated Press.

President Joe Biden tweeted on Monday, "My Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country."

The night before DeSantis was expected to sign the bill, several celebrities took the opportunity to speak out against the bill. Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and Amy Schumer said they were going to have a "gay" night, and repeated the word "gay" eight times "for the people of Florida."

As the bill is now approved by DeSantis, it will go into effect on July 1, 2022.

American Conservative Union Holds Annual CPAC Conference
The controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday. In this photo, DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at The Rosen Shingle Creek on February 24, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images