On Wednesday, Florida’s Republican-majority legislature passed bills that would prohibit diversity programs in colleges and prevent students and teachers from being required to use pronouns that do not match an individual’s biological sex. These proposals align with the priorities of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign the bills into law.
The Senate voted to expand the Parental Rights in Education law with a comprehensive bill that forbids school staff and students from being compelled to use pronouns that do not align with a person’s biological sex. The bill also prohibits classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation until the 9th grade, legally reinforcing a DeSantis administration decision to ban such lessons across all grade levels. Furthermore, the legislation strengthens the system for challenging school books, another DeSantis initiative that has resulted in the removal of materials he and his supporters consider inappropriate for children.
Republicans argue that the bill is meant to protect children from sexualized content and ensure that teachers adhere to state curriculums. Senator Erin Grall, a Republican, said, “We are depriving children of the ability to figure out who they are when we push a sexualized agenda onto children.”
In a separate move, House Republicans granted final passage to a DeSantis-backed bill that prohibits colleges from using state or federal funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. Critics, primarily Republicans, contend that such initiatives are racially divisive. Over 30 bills targeting DEI efforts in higher education have been proposed by Republican lawmakers in at least a dozen states this year, according to an Associated Press analysis using Plural, a bill-tracking software.
Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican, stated, “These programs are being used all over the country. Imagine how great our universities will be when we are the only ones who are not.” Additionally, the House approved a proposal banning individuals from using restrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex.