The Phoenix Flyer

‘The culture war of all culture wars’; HB 1557 continues to draw in protesters

By: - March 7, 2022 1:25 pm

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and other lawmakers speak out against HB 1557 — what’s been called the Don’t Say Gay bill. March 7, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

Protesters of controversial legislation referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, were singing “Amazing Grace” in the fourth floor of the Florida Capitol Building Monday morning, as the group waited to hear from the Florida Senate, which is scheduled to discuss HB 1557 today.

It was the second time in a few days that protestors have crowded into the Capitol to say ‘no’ to the bill described as limiting certain conversations on gender identity and sexual orientation in public school classrooms.

HB 1557 has drawn nationwide attention and protests across the state, and is considered one of the main “culture war” bills in the 2022 legislative session in Florida.

The state House has already approved the bill.

The legislation is officially called “Parental Rights in Education,” but opponents have been referring to it as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill due to its potential chilling effect in Florida classrooms regarding LGBTQ issues and students.

Meanwhile, ahead of the consideration of the bill limiting certain conversations on gender identity and sexual orientation, a gay House member has called for the firing or resignation of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s spokesperson over “hateful” twitter comments the weekend.

“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill has been weaponized by the Far Right to attack and disparage LGBTQ people. This tweet from the Governor’s spokesperson is just the most recent example,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said. “And If he (DeSantis) does not remove her from her position, he has embraced her hateful message.”

Smith, a gay man, made these comments at a Monday morning rally outside the Historic Florida Capitol, in reference to tweets posted by Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’s press secretary, last Friday.

Pushaw’s tweet says:

“The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill.”

Her follow-up tweet says: “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.”

Over the weekend, Pushaw continued to comment on and share like-minded tweets.

Smith added: “Folks, we’ve seen this before. Accusations of pedophilia are the oldest, most dangerous anti-gay trope that exists. Literally the oldest trick in the book.”

Smith was joined by two other LGBTQ lawmakers, Rep. Michele Rayner from the Tampa Bay area and Sen. Shevrin Jones of South Florida, along with other Democratic lawmakers outside of the historic Capitol

Sen. Jones, who represents part of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, called HB 1557 “the culture war of all culture wars” at the rally.

“The Twitter battle that we’re looking at right now, with the governors office, the spokesperson…she said everything she needed to say by calling us groomers,” Jones told the protesters. “Which is buzzword for pedophile.”

The Phoenix has reached out to Pushaw for comments.

Some senators have offered changes to the bill on Monday.

The bill provides parents the opportunity to sue if a school district withholds certain information from them about their child’s well-being or if their child is exposed to instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity deemed not “age-appropriate.”

HB 1557 is sponsored by Rep. Joe Harding in the House. He represents Levy and part of Marion County.  Sen. Dennis Baxley, the Senate sponsor, is a Republican representing counties in Central Florida.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.