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Amendment to shift focus of 'parental rights' bill away from sexual orientation fails

The amendment would've replaced the words "sexual orientation or gender identity" with "human sexuality or sexual activity."

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — An amendment to Florida's "Parental Rights in Education" that would've eliminated what critics say is harmful rhetoric targeting LGBTQ+ students failed.

HB 1557, which opponents have dubbed the “don't say gay" bill, advanced through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday and now heads to the Senate floor. It passed in the Florida House on Thursday.

As it stands, the controversial bill prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, or at any grade level if it's deemed not age or developmentally appropriate. 

RELATED: VERIFY fact sheet: Florida's 'don't say gay' bill, explained

It's been highly criticized by Democratic leaders both at the state and national level, including condemnation from President Joe Biden and the White House. 

But, an amendment to the bill that Senate lawmakers considered on Monday would've shifted the focus away from one of its most controversial elements.

The amendment proposed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican representing St. Petersburg, would've replaced the words "sexual orientation or gender identity" with "human sexuality or sexual activity."

This would mean that instruction about sexual activity, in general, would be banned for certain grade levels. Supporters of the amendment, including Equality Florida, said it was a step in the right direction, as debate over the bill has often conflated sexual orientation and sexual activity.

"If the intent of this bill isn’t to marginalize anyone, let’s make sure we aren’t," Brandes said during Monday's Senate Appropriations Committee.

The amendment failed on a party-line vote, with Brandes being the lone Republican to vote in support.

Supporters of the bill have previously said that topics of sexual orientation or gender identity are not appropriate conversations for younger students.

"My purpose with this is to give, really, some relief to the school staff that they're not responsible for every issue in every person's life," said Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has previously said, "I don’t want the schools to kind of be a playground for ideological disputes or to try to inject." 

"At the end of the day, you know, my goal is to educate kids on the subjects—math, reading, science—all the things that are so important," the governor added at the time. 

Another controversial amendment to the bill, which some argued could forcibly out LGBTQ children, was thrown out last week by its Republican sponsor after receiving widespread criticism. 

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