Michele Rayner to speak at ‘OK to Say Gay’ rally in St. Pete Saturday
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/07/22-Rep. Michele K. Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, center, speaks during a rally of those opposed to the ‘Don’t Say Gay” bill, Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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The rally comes in response to the passage of controversial parental rights legislation governing classroom instruction on LGBTQ matters.

A coalition of LGBTQ advocacy groups will be hosting an “OK to Say Gay” rally Saturday in St. Petersburg to protest recently passed controversial parental rights legislation governing classroom instruction on LGBTQ matters. Opponents have dubbed the measure the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The rally will start at 4 p.m. on the steps of St. Pete City Hall, 175 5th Street North. There, officials like state Rep. Michele Rayner, who is the first openly gay woman of color elected to the House, will speak on the bill.  Pinellas County School Board Member Caprice Edmond and LGBTQ consumer advocate Nathan Bruemmer will also speak. After the speeches, there will be a march.

The rally comes in response to legislation passed by the Senate Tuesday in a 22-17 vote, sending the bill to the Governor’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law.

The Senate voted on the House version of the legislation, which cleared that chamber in a 69-47 vote two weeks ago. The proposal (HB 1557) would limit classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity, a move Republican leadership says would bolster parental rights.

The bill was brought by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley and Williston Republican Rep. Joe Harding.

The measure would ban classroom “instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity” for students in kindergarten through third grade, or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The legislation does not restrict the topics from being barred across all ages if the school district deems the instruction age-inappropriate.

Parents who think a classroom discussion was not age-appropriate or who are unsupportive of a district’s policies would be able to sue for damages and attorneys fees.

“These topics (sexual orientation or gender identity) are not suitable for K through 3,” Baxley said when presenting the bill.

In addition to instructional guidelines, the legislation also would limit confidentiality between students and school personnel, requiring that a school district “may not adopt procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about his or her student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being, or a change in related services or monitoring, or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information.”

School personnel only are permitted to withhold such information from a parent “if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect,” the bill reads.

The legislation has been the subject of controversy, with waves of Florida students protesting the bill in a last-ditch plea with state Senators to vote it down. It has also drawn public criticism from physicians, members of the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ advocacy organizations, the Florida PTA and ACLU Florida at committee hearings.

Critics of the bill worry that its vague language will have a chilling affect on teachers, who may stop discussion of LBGTQ families out of fear of a lawsuit. Opponents have also expressed concern over the message the legislation sends to already-vulnerable LGBTQ students.

However, Republican supporters of the bill insist on the parental rights aspect of the legislation. Proponents of the bill include Florida Citizens Alliance, Christian Family Coalition and the Florida Family Rights Council.

The Saturday rally will be hosted by St Pete for Change, Keep Pinellas Blue, Come Out St Pete, Pasco Pride, PDA Pinellas, Florida LGBTQ Democratic Caucus, Gay Tampa, Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County, Indivisible Safety Harbor/North Pinellas, Indivisible-FL13 & Allendale UMC.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]


2 comments

  • Antonio

    March 11, 2022 at 9:01 pm

    “The measure would ban classroom “instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity” FOR STUDENTS IN KINDERGARTEN THROUGH THIRD GRADE, or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The legislation does not restrict the topics from being barred across all ages if the school district deems the instruction age-appropriate.”

    What sick piece of crap has a problem with this? Seriously, anyone here opposing this bill, explain to me how you are ok having discussions like this with young children….It is absolutely disgusting that anyone would be opposed to this.

  • Edward Lyle

    March 16, 2022 at 9:22 am

    For a group of “gay” people, they all look so miserable. Life choices have consequences. No one cares about your unhealthy and unnatural lifestyle choice. Live your life, do no harm, become a productive member of a civil society, and shut up about your sexual choices.

    News Flash: You’re not special, just different.

Comments are closed.


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