The higher education bill would, among other things, ban gender studies majors and minors, prohibit public colleges and universities from spending money on activities that “espouse diversity, equity and inclusion,” allow tenure reviews of faculty members at any time and allow presidents and trustees to hire faculty without considering recommendations from existing faculty.
The defamation bill would try to lower the bar for politicians and other public figures to sue news organizations for libel, in a direct challenge to U.S. Supreme Court precedent; it would also undermine the use of anonymous sources, which are sometimes crucial to investigative and news reporting. A House version of the bill would also make discriminatory statements about someone’s race, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation a category of protected free speech.
Under the concealed weapons bill, Floridians who do not have felony arrests or certain arrests related to substance abuse could carry a firearm without the current permit requirement. The state now requires anyone seeking a permit to undergo a background check, fingerprinting and a training course, and to fire a gun in front of an instructor.
The legislation has drawn opposition not only from gun-control advocates but also from pro-gun groups, who say it does not go far enough because it would not allow open carry — and would continue to allow for gun-free zones in places like schools and government buildings.
“We’re insulted by this bill,” Bob White, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, said at a recent Senate criminal justice committee hearing.
Last week, Republicans filed a bill to expand last year’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, which opponents called “Don’t Say Gay,” that prohibited classroom instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grades. The new legislation would extend the prohibition through eighth grade and into charter schools. Stating that a “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait,” it would also ban schools from referring to students using pronouns that do not “correspond to his or her sex.”
On Friday, Republicans filed a bill that would ban treatment such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender minors. The Florida Board of Medicine has already moved forward with rules barring medications and surgery for adolescent patients, though the legislation would write that prohibition into state law.