Florida Students Swarm State Capitol Ahead Of 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Debate

“We will get up, stand up, wake up every single day to fight for you because your lives matter,” state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith told the students.

Florida students swarmed the state Capitol in Tallahassee on Monday as debate on the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill got underway in the state Senate.

After first gathering for a rally on the steps outside, students walked into the Capitol and took a seat outside the chamber.

“While those senators walk onto the Senate floor, they need to look you in the eye first and see your humanity before they vote on this bill,” state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D), who identifies as LGBTQ and is opposed to the bill, told the crowd.

“We will get up, stand up, wake up every single day to fight for you because your lives matter,” Smith said.

Video shared from inside showed the group observing a moment of silence as a youth organizer read the names of LGBTQ people who have died by suicide after experiencing anti-LGBTQ hate. That was followed by a chorus of “Amazing Grace.”

State Sen. Shevrin Jones (D), the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the Florida Senate, praised the students’ courage Monday.

“Brave is an understatement; strong is what these students are,” he said in a statement on social media. “Students from across the State traveled to Tallahassee to raise their voices. The LGBTQ community are not political pawns ― they are your brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, & friends ― they are watching too!”

The Parental Rights in Education bill, as it’s officially known, would limit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in some classrooms, and potentially allow parents to sue if they believe any reference to LGBTQ people or issue in school is inappropriate.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled Florida House on a 69-47 vote last month, with seven GOP members crossing the aisle to vote against it.

“If signed into law, these bills will have disastrous impacts on classrooms and workplaces,” Equality Florida said in a statement after the House vote. “They will turn Florida into a surveillance state and give the government broad license to censor conversations about American history, the origins of racism and injustice, and the existence of LGBTQ people.”

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