NAPLES, Fla. — On Friday evening, a group gathered in Naples to protest what’s being called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The tandem bills moving through the state legislature would outlaw instruction on gender identity and sexual preference in Florida public schools. Naples Pride, a nonprofit that supports the LGBTQ community, organized a protest.
The event started around 4:30 p.m. Friday, when the group delivered a petition signed by more than 300 people to the office of state senator Kathleen Passidomo. The group then marched through downtown Naples before arriving in Cambier Park..
The people from Naples Pride say they felt the responsibility to speak out against the bills, which they call dangerous to the LGBTQ community.
“For children to lose their support system in school, the one place should feel safe, is problematic,” said Corey Huffman, a board member for Naples Pride.
Supporters of the bill say the discussion of topics of gender identity and sexual preference should be left up to parents.
But Huffman said that children who have questions about those issues shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it.
“Some children might want to ask, ‘Why does so-and-so have two moms and I have a mom and a dad?’” Huffman said. “Just being able to help that child understand what that means isn’t improper.”
Callhan Soldavini also is a board member for Naples Pride, and she says the bills send the wrong message.
“The fear is its going to make teachers fearful of providing a safe and inclusive classroom,” Soldavini said. “It sends the message to children and bullies that LGBTQ issues are shameful and taboo.”
Soldavini also said it’s important to make children from all backgrounds feel comfortable asking any questions they might have to the teachers they trust.
“It’s not undermining parents rights, but just ensuring schools are still safe place for students to be able to talk about these issues,” she said. “Silencing them isn’t going to help, it’s only going to hurt.”
FOX4 reached out to both state senator Kathleen Passidomo and state representative Bob Rommel, but neither one returned messages.
The senate bill is scheduled to go to the appropriations committee on Monday.