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Tampa 'Say Gay' rally held to oppose 'Parental Rights in Education' bill passage

The bill bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity on pre-K to third grade but opens the door to all grades if deemed not age-appropriate.

TAMPA, Fla — A number of people are still voicing anger over the "Parental Rights in Education" bill — HB 1557. Critics have called it the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

It's been nearly one week since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law. LGBTQ+ advocacy groups announced it's also suing Florida over the bill.

Critics held a "Say Gay" rally at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Tampa. Several groups organized it including Equality Florida and PFLAG. They said the demonstration was also held to honor Transgender Day of Visibility, which was earlier in the week.

LGBTQ+ students said they worry about the consequences the bill will have on their mental wellbeing. They said it sends the wrong message.

Erie Bowen, a high school student who identifies as non-binary with he or they pronouns, said the bill is telling kids that LGBTQ+ topics are a taboo subject that shouldn't be talked about. 

In addition, that "who we are is not ok, not appropriate at all," Bowen said. 

The bill places limits on classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to 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.” 

Bill sponsors said they're aiming to preserve the rights of parents. 

Classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity will not be banned, according to bill sponsors. However, critics said they worry the political discourse over the bill is enough to harm LGBTQ+ students. 

The bill takes effect July 1. 

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