Florida Republicans on Wednesday approved bills to ban diversity programs in colleges and prevent students and teachers from being required to use pronouns that don’t correspond to someone’s sex, building on top priorities of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The two proposals were given final passage by the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate. Mr. DeSantis is expected to sign the bills into law.
Mr. DeSantis, who is expected to announce a presidential campaign in the coming weeks, has driven a hardline conservative agenda as he seeks to bolster support of Republican primary voters ahead of his White House run.
The state’s Legislative session, scheduled to end this week, has been dominated by divisive cultural issues, with Republican allies of Mr. DeSantis approving his priority bills on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and education that are expected to aid the governor in his presidential bid.
The Senate on Wednesday voted to expand the Parental Rights in Education Act, a major calling card of Mr. DeSantis, with a sweeping bill that prevents school staffers or students from being required to refer to people by pronouns that don’t correspond to the person’s sex.
It also bans classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation up to the eighth grade, legally reinforcing a DeSantis administration move to prohibit such lessons in all grades. Additionally, the bill strengthens the system in which people can lodge challenges against school books, another Mr. DeSantis’ initiative that has led to the removal of material he and his supporters argue are inappropriate for children.
“Think about what we’re doing, honestly. Think about how this will affect families that don’t look like yours,” said Sen. Tracie Davis, a Democrat. “They’re still families. They’re Florida families. But we’re treating them like they’re outsiders and we’re telling them we don’t want them here.”
Republicans said the bill is intended to shield children from sexualized content and reinforce that teachers should conform to existing state curriculums.
“You see society coming at our children in a culture war that has an agenda to make them confused,” Republican Sen. Erin Grall said. “We are depriving children of the ability to figure out who they are when we push an agenda, a sexualized agenda, down onto children.”
Separately, Republicans in the House gave final passage to a DeSantis priority bill that bans colleges from using state or federal funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.
Such initiatives, sometimes referred to as DEI, have come under increasing criticism from Republicans who argue the programs are racially divisive.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.