Florida Republicans advance gender identity and defamation bills

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Republicans on Tuesday advanced a proposal to ban classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity through eighth grade, expanding a controversial call from critics of the “don’t say gay” law.

The bill, which was approved by a House subcommittee, still needs to clear another committee before moving on to the full House. A separate House subcommittee has approved a bill that would make it easier to sue journalists for defamation, a priority for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who frequently criticizes what he calls “legacy media.”

The education measure would also prohibit school staff or students from being required to refer to people by pronouns that do not match the person’s gender.

Florida came under national scrutiny last year over the so-called Don’t Say Gay Act, which bans teaching about sexual orientation and identity. kindergarten through third grade.

DeSantis has been a fierce advocate for the law in his campaign against what he calls woke ideology in education, a stance he has leaned heavily on as he prepares to launch his candidacy. expected presidential.

The proposal approved on Tuesday would extend the ban on classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.

LEARN MORE: Ahead of 2024 presidential bid, DeSantis calls on US to follow Florida’s lead

The bill also prevents schools from asking for a student’s preferred pronouns and prevents staff from giving their own preferred pronouns. Republicans on the committee rejected an amendment to the bill that would allow a teacher to use a student’s preferred pronoun if a parent gave formal permission.

“This bill is anti-freedom, anti-freedom. These are not parental rights or children’s rights. it’s about scoring political points. It’s about power and control,” said Democratic Rep. Angie Nixon.

Similarly, Democrats said the libel bill would reduce protections for media and speech in the US Constitution in what has been described as an abuse of government power.

Legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Alex Andrade would state, among other things, that statements made by an anonymous source are presumed false as they relate to a libel suit unless a reporter reveals who the source is. He said that doesn’t mean people can’t criticize politicians and others, but rather that the media can’t use information they know to be false to deliberately hurt someone.

“I can’t sue anyone for defamation just because they called me a murderer, because that was the easiest way to sum up what they thought of my COVID policy,” Andrade said. “That’s just a blatant, silly, childish statement. You have a right to be wrong in America.

A long list of speakers representing groups such as open government watchdogs, the First Amendment Foundation and the Florida Press Association, urged lawmakers to vote against the libel bill, saying it would have an effect dissuasive on the media.

And Democratic Rep. Daryl Campbell accused Republicans of hypocrisy, saying they generally seek to make it harder for people to sue private companies. He also said the proposal would harm journalists’ ability to do investigative research.

“It encourages lawsuits in a legislature whose goal until now … has been to reduce litigation,” said Democratic Rep. Daryl Campbell. “This is an abuse of power and an attack on free speech and freedom of the press, not to mention the constitution of the United States and Florida.”


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