Nearly 150 new laws take effect in Florida this month. Of the hundreds of bills lawmakers sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis on the first day of July, he signed 146 that will change life for Floridians on a wide range of issues.
Among the most controversial is the Parental Rights in Education or “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law prohibits teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten to third-grade classes. DeSantis says the law supports parents and their right to choose what and when they teach their children about sexuality.
When DeSantis signed the bill at the end of March, he criticized schools’ curriculum and classroom materials. “We’ve seen libraries that have clearly inappropriate, pornographic materials for very young kids,” DeSantis said. He held up examples that included a diagram of the “Genderbread Person,” which he used to explain gender identity, and a book about a transgender boy called “Call Me Max.”
Critics of the law say it is discriminatory and will further stigmatize LGBTQ youth. The law requires teachers to notify parents about students’ mental, emotional or physical health or well-being. LGBTQ advocates fear this could lead to teachers potentially outing students to their parents and result in negative consequences for the child.
Another contentious law is the state’s 15-week abortion ban. Under previous Florida law abortions were legal up until 24 weeks, the point of viability decided in the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
The law went into effect just one week after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. DeSantis says the law protects babies in the womb while opponents say it robs women of the right to make decisions about their own bodies.
Nikki Fried, Florida Agricultural Commissioner and Democrat in the race to try to unseat Gov. DeSantis this fall, said the 15-week abortion ban is an assault on women. “It’s an insult to our dignity and our ability to make these deeply personal decisions about our own lives,” Fried said. She emphasized the devastating impact the ban will have on women’s physical and emotional health.
As Floridians head to the polls over the next few months, these heavily debated issues are sure to be on their minds. Whether they favor the new laws or not will be apparent after they cast their votes to elect the governor, one U.S. senator and 28 U.S. representatives on Nov. 8.