Psaki calls Florida parental rights bill ‘a form of bullying’, dodges question on similar Biden 1994 vote

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki vocally condemned a Florida parental rights bill that Democrats have branded a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, despite the fact that the bill does not ban the word “gay” in school settings.

Psaki branded the legislation “discriminatory,” “horrific,” and “a form of bullying” against families and LGBTQ children at a news conference on Wednesday, dodging a question about why President Biden voted for similar legislation when he was a US senator in 1994 .

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The bill, HB 1557, requires school districts to adopt procedures that “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.” It prohibits classroom instruction – not casual discussion – on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” with children in third grade or younger, “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Feb.  16, 2022, in Washington.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Washington.
(AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)

A reporter asked Psaki about the bill, noting that in 1994, Biden voted for an amendment to an education bill that aimed to “prohibit Federal funds for instructional materials, instruction, counseling, or other services on school grounds, from being used for the promotion. of homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative. “

“Why did he do that?” the reporter asked. “And can you describe how his thinking has evolved over the years?”

“Well, I think you have seen the president speak passionately about his view that a bill like this – a bill that would discriminate against families, against kids, put these kids in a position of not getting the support they need at a time where that’s exactly what they need – is discriminatory, “Psaki said. “It’s a form of bullying. It’s horrific. I mean, the president has spoken to that.”

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Last month, Biden called the legislation a “hateful bill,” reassuring “every member of the LGBTQI + community” that “my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”

Psaki referenced Biden’s views from 1994, then pivoted immediately to attack the current legislation.

“In terms of his views and comments from 25 years ago, I think the most important question now is: Why are Florida leaders deciding they need to discriminate against kids who are members of the LGBTQI community?” she said. “What prompts them to do that? Is it meanness?”

US President Joe Biden gives remarks at a Black History Month celebration event in the East Room of the White House on February 28, 2022, in Washington, DC.

US President Joe Biden gives remarks at a Black History Month celebration event in the East Room of the White House on February 28, 2022, in Washington, DC.
(Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

“Is it wanting to make kids have more difficult times in school, in their communities?” she asked. “I would pose that question to them, and we can talk about it more tomorrow if you get an answer.”

Psaki did not clarify how the bill allegedly “discriminates” against certain children and families.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantiswho is expected to sign the bill, lambasted a WFLA reporter on Monday for saying the “Don’t Say Gay” misnomer during a press conference.

“Does it say that in the bill?” DeSantis asked, adding that “it’s why people do not trust people like you because you peddle false narratives.”

“And we’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum,” the governor said.

“Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill restrictions all instruction about sexuality and gender theory in grades K-3, not just ‘homosexuality,’ “Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for DeSantis, told Fox News Digital.” The bill is not discriminatory, and in fact does not even mention the word ‘gay. ‘ The idea that it’s inappropriate for adults to instruct kindergarteners about sexual topics of any kind should not be controversial in the least. “

“Four- to nine-year-old children are too young to be learning about these topics in school,” Griffin added. “It should be a parent’s prerogative to broach these topics with their children. This is not an LGBT issue, and most Floridians – gay or straight – are fully in favor of parents’ rights.”

Griffin emphasized, “As a dad of three young children, Governor DeSantis thinks we should let kids be kids (emphasis original).

Despite critics branding it a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, HB 1557 does not ban the word “gay” in school settings. Neither does it ban casual discussions of topics relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. It does not require schools to notify parents if their child identifies as gay or transgender.

Florida Gov.  Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug.  18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
(AP Photo / Marta Lavandier)

Although the bill requires schools to notify parents of each health care service offered at the school (allowing them to decline any service) and to allow parents to access their children’s education and health records, it does not require schools to notify parents about their kids’ mental, emotional or physical well-being “if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect.”

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Fox News’ Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report. This story has been updated with a statement from DeSantis’ office.

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