Sponsor of Florida's so-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill defends it against media 'disinformation' narrative

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Florida is set to pass a piece of controversial legislation that its sponsor says has been unfairly maligned and misrepresented by the news media and the Biden administration.

The bill, labeled by critics and media outlets as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, is expected to pass through the Florida legislature on Thursday and is being slammed by various LGBTQ groups and Democratic politicians as a bill that would prohibit the word gay from being discussed in school while also targeting LGBTQ students. 

The sponsor of House Bill 1557, Republican Florida State Rep. Joe Harding, says the text of the actual bill does nothing of the sort. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference. 
(Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

According to Harding, the bill does two things in an effort to give parents more of a say in what their young children are being told about sexuality in school.

“One, it defines that there are certain instructions related to gender and sexual orientation that are just not appropriate at certain ages and we define that as kindergarten through third grade,” Harding, a father of four, told Fox News. “A school having curriculum that teaches gender and sexual orientation and what that means and getting into the weeds on that is just not age appropriate.”

Harding continued, “The second thing is that it creates a course of action for the parent who is dealing with a school district that has decided they are going to become the parent. They’re going to take your student that has anxiety and stress and mental concerns maybe even talking about self harm and they’re going to put them in mental health and take steps to change the services at the school and protect that student from themselves but never engage with the parent. That’s just wrong so our bill seeks to remedy that.” 

Masked kids in school classroom.
( Allison Dinner/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Harding says that 13 school districts in the state of Florida currently promote curriculum that encourages teachers not to talk to the parents of students about sexual orientation questions and changing gender identifications but to instead have the school district handle it. 

“That’s just wrong,” Harding said. “It’s dangerous and wrong and so the bill does those two things it empowers parents by giving them a legal remedy to resolve if a school district is making these decisions without them.”

The bill, which is set for a final vote on Thursday in the Florida House, has been labeled as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by many media outlets implying that conversations about being gay will be banned in schools. A headline on MSNBC this week implied the bill would “erase” LGBT families in schools and that it represents an “attack” on gay people. 

The non-profit group Equality Florida has also accused Harding of trying to “erase LGTBQ people from classrooms” with the bill.

The bill has also been criticized by President Joe Biden and his White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Biden amplified the idea in a tweet earlier this month that the bill was an “attack” on LGBT children.

Harding says the attacks against the bill are part of a misinformation campaign.

“They said that we were banning the word, that we were banning people, all things that aren’t true,” Harding said. “I think that’s backfiring because the American people have woken up over the past five or six years and realized not to believe what you’re hearing. Do your own research.”

Harding also says that several of his Democrat colleagues have told him that they see no issue with the bill’s text when discussing it with him in private but have slammed the bill when asked about it in a public setting. 

Harding issued a direct response to Biden and Psaki on Twitter that has been viewed over 50,000 times. 

“Kids can and they will talk about whatever they want at school,” Harding says in the video. “We just want to make sure that teachers promote that discussion at the right age level, and we want to make sure parents are kept in the loop.”

Harding told Fox News that parents who believe that the “best environment for a student to have an education in a school system that engages the parents on critical decisions” have no reason to be concerned about the bill.

Harding added that parents concerned by inflammatory headlines should “read the bill and block out the noise” while acknowledging he knows that’s “hard to do” in this heavily divided political climate. 

“The biggest danger and the biggest lie is that what the opposition to the bill is saying that you can’t be pro-parent and compassionate and tolerant to the LGBTQ community,” Harding said.

The bill is expected to pass through the Florida House on Thursday along with its companion bill in the Senate before heading to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk. 

DeSantis has not definitively said whether he will sign the bill but told Fox News through his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, earlier this month that he would make his decision when the full bill is at this desk. 

Pushaw agreed with Harding’s assessment of the media’s coverage of the bill and said that an “entirely false” narrative has been put forward. 

“There is nothing in this bill preventing anyone from ‘saying gay’,” Pushaw said. “It’s about age-appropriate education on gender and sexual orientation.”

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