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'Let kids be kids': DeSantis signs bills into law aimed at 'protecting children' – here’s what’s in them

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several bills into law, including expanding the controversial parental rights in education law.

TAMPA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several bills into law that prevents children from receiving gender-affirming care, force people to use the bathroom corresponding with their sex and further expand restrictions surrounding classroom discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation.

He signed the bills Wednesday at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, declaring "let kids be kids." DeSantis said the new laws will prevent mutilation of minors, protect children from "sexually explicit" entertainment and keep pronouns from being forced on students.

The laws further harm the LGBTQ community, critics contend. Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, in a statement, said Republicans like DeSantis "are pushing an extreme agenda that is fueled by disinformation, isolating already marginalized people."

She continued, in part: "The notion of “let kids be kids” is one we all agree with, and should also apply to LGBTQ+ kids who these bills target and erase. All four of these bills fit into the category of culture wars, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have real life consequences. 

"Right now trans people are trying to find access to care, while many have decided to leave the state all together. Kids don’t feel safe being themselves, and we already see the continuation of diverse books being removed from school libraries. This is not the Florida I know, or a Florida that welcomes all people."

Here's a look at each bill DeSantis signed into law:

SB 254

This new law, which takes effect immediately, prevents doctors and other health care providers from offering treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to transgender teens and children under 18, The News Service of Florida explains.  

DeSantis has repeatedly called such treatments "child mutilation."

The law also grants courts of Florida temporary emergency jurisdiction over a child in the state if they have been subjected to or "is threatened with" being subjected to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures. Parents are able to apply for a warrant to receive physical custody of a child.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration approved a rule last year that prohibited Medicaid reimbursements for puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for transgender youths and adults. Also, at the DeSantis administration’s urging, state medical boards adopted rules that prevented doctors from providing treatments to minors. 

This bill goes further, codifying the prohibition of these treatments into state law. 

The new law prevents health-care providers from offering puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgical procedures to treat transgender minors. Physicians could face third-degree felony charges for violating the prohibition on care for minors. 

The law includes an exemption for minors currently receiving puberty blockers or hormone therapy. But it also now requires the state Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine to create rules to establish standards of practice for physicians providing care to such minors.

While adults would be able to receive the treatments, the bill includes additional restrictions. For example, adults would have to sign consent forms that would be developed by the medical boards. The law also would prevent the use of telehealth in providing treatments.

HB 1069

DeSantis expanded the Parental Rights in Education law — controversial legislation that has been dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics. 

This expansion further limits public school classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity, restricting it through 8th grade and marking the topics as acceptable in grades 9-12 if it’s cleared as “age-appropriate.”

The bill also would prohibit school staffers or students from being required to refer to people by pronouns that don’t correspond to the person’s sex.

"We're not doing the pronoun Olympics," DeSantis said Wednesday. 

Last year's Parental Rights in Education Act drew widespread backlash nationally, with critics saying it marginalizes LGBTQ people and their presence in society.

DeSantis and other Republicans have repeatedly said the measure is reasonable and that parents, not teachers, should be broaching subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.

The law also kicked off a feud between the state and Disney, one of the state's largest employers and political donors, after the entertainment giant publicly opposed the law and said it was pausing political donations in the state.

HB 1438

The new law, which takes effect immediately, dubbed "Protection of Children" bars children's exposure to adult live performances and lewd behavior, lawmakers said. 

While the law doesn't specifically mention drag shows, the bill defines "adult live performances" as "any show, exhibition, or other presentation that is performed in front of a live audience and in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, specific sexual activities, ... lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts."

In a handout distributed during Wednesday's news conference, the governor's office said the law "protects children from sexually explicit adult performances in all venues — including drag shows and strip clubs." 

The law also "imposes fines and license suspension for hotels and restaurants that admit a child into an adult performance." 

Critics have said the legislation is so vague that Pride parades could be in jeopardy. Before the bill was even passed, some voiced worry local governments might feel pressure to deny permits for public pride events.

Groups like Equality Florida recently issued a travel advisory for Florida. They argue new laws and bills jeopardize people's safety and freedom.

The governor's office stated the warning is a political stunt. GOP lawmakers in favor of the proposals said they come down to the protection of children.

NAACP Florida State Conference and the Florida Immigrant Coalition also issued similar travel advisories.

HB 1521

This law bans people from entering bathrooms or locker rooms that don't correspond to a person's biological sex — critics of this legislation have said this law directly targets transgender people. 

This law goes beyond public schools to include public bathrooms in areas such as health care facilities and other places deemed public under law including lodging, restaurants or gas stations. 

Lawmakers who approved the legislation said this is about protection and safety. However, advocates from the LGBTQ community said they fear the law's repercussions. 

The controversy over the bill became heightened over comments Rep. Webster Barnaby, R-Deltona, made during a committee meeting more than one week ago. Barnaby later apologized for comments he made referring to transgender people as "demons." 

HB 225

The governor's office said this legislation lets students who attend private or virtual school and are homeschooled participate in sports and extracurricular activities at private and public schools, regardless of their ZIP code. 

It also allows public prayer at the beginning of high school sporting events. Additionally, it imposes state control over the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) to "ensure women's sports are protected." 

Back in 2022, a federal judge ruled against the Cambridge Christian School — where DeSantis signed Wednesday's bills — regarding a lawsuit over the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) denying a pre-game prayer from being held over a stadium loudspeaker during a 2015 state championship football game.

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