Florida Democrats brought all of their opposition to the table when it came to the Parental Rights in Education bill. Republicans have criticized Democrats for "sloganeering" the bill when they dubbed it the "Don't Say Gay" bill. However, State Rep. Carlos G. Smith (D-49) has denied misrepresenting the Parental Rights in Education bill.
In an interview with News Channel 8, Rep. Smith responded to a reporters question about Democrats, "sloganeering," the legislation in question, and even brought up that the word, "gay," is not even used in the legislation.
This prompted Rep. Smith to respond, "Well, the fact that the word, 'gay,' is not in the bill is irrelevant. The effect of the bill is the same. The bill overtly censors classroom instruction of sexual orientation. Meaning the teacher, can't say it."
Smith continued, "They can't say gay as part of instruction and what is included in classroom instruction? We don't know. We don't know because the sponsors of the, 'Don't Say Gay' bill refuse to define what 'classroom instruction' means and because the bill has this vigilante enforcement mechanism that allows individuals to sue a school, if they believe there's a violation of House Bill 1557, what you're going to have, is you're going to have teachers who are afraid to broach, the topic of LGBTQ people or, you know, really include LGBTQ people in a classroom at all for fear that they're going to be investigated, there's going to be a lawsuit, they're going to have their careers ruined and unfortunately, that's the chilling effect that comes from this bill."
The reporter then pushed back on Smith, claiming that bill author State Rep. Joe Harding (R-22) has stated, even on the House floor, that some of Smith's complaints are not applicable to the law. For instance, a student talking about their same-sex parents would not fall in violation.
Smith responded, "I'm not buying it because it doesn't matter what the bill sponsor says... the text of the bill is what the law is. You talk to any teacher and they'll tell you, 'what is classroom instruction?' Everything they do is classroom instruction! Including talking to kids, answering their questions and everything under the sun."