Democrat Carlos Smith endorses Jeff Brandes’ amendment to sex ed bill
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 11/30/21-Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, asks a question during the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

'The amendment substantially deescalates the public opposition.'

Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith Monday endorsed Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes’ proposed changes to a controversial measure opponents that call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

On Friday, Brandes indicated he would introduce an amendment to SB 1834 at the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday. The amendment would swap out the words “sexual orientation or gender identity” and swap in the words “human sexuality,” in the bill’s ban of classroom instruction for students in grades Kindergarten through third grade.

Smith said the changes would deescalate public opposition.

Speaking for the House Democratic Caucus in a media call Monday morning, Smith — an openly gay member from Orlando — praised Brandes’ proposal for eliminating language that specifically targets the LGBTQ community. The new language supports what Smith said had been the bill’s overt intention: restricting sex education for younger students.

The bill, which is entitled “Parental Rights in Education” but which critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is being heard at the Appropriations committee at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

The legislation is sponsored by Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley of Lady Lake.

“For those who are pushing a bill like this because they want to restrict what they consider to be inappropriate sexual education topics in K-3, this amendment actually does that, and takes the bill from being about prohibiting conversations or instruction toward a group of people — LGBTQ people — and erasing our identities and our visibility in public schools,” Smith said. “It just makes it a bill about restricting sex ed for lower grade levels.

“I support the amendment,” Smith continued. “The amendment substantially deescalates the public opposition to this bill, and it makes the bill no longer about targeting LGBTQ people for erasure in our schools. It’s just a bill about sex ed, and which grades are appropriate for that conversation and which grades are not.”

The House on Thursday voted 69-47 to pass the House measure (HB 1557).

The House measure — and the Senate measure without Brandes’ amendment — would specifically limit school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, a measure opponents view as an affront to LGBTQ students and the community at large. The bill would prohibit those classroom discussions between kindergarten and third grade and limit talks in later grades to discussions that are “age-appropriate.” Parents could sue if they believed a discussion was inappropriate.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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