The Florida Senate voted 21-17 Wednesday, following a strong majority vote in the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee, to submit the Evolution Academic Freedom Act for vote in the House.
If passed, the new bill will give full protections and freedoms for teachers and students in Florida schools to share views in the classroom that challenge some or all parts of Darwin's theory of evolution.
The new bill was largely prompted by legislators after the Florida Board of Education decided to begin requiring the instruction of evolution in schools earlier this year.
Many teachers and students reportedly felt marginalized, discriminated, or ostracized if they shared personal views that ran counter to Darwinism.
Republican Sen. Ronda Storms, the bill's sponsor, touted the successful passage of the bill in the Senate as a victory for academic freedom as she read from emails sent by supporters congratulating the measure.
"To say I have problems with evolution theory would be career suicide for me," an email from a teacher explained, according to The Herald Tribune. The teacher added that those who oppose evolution were frequently called "religious idiots" and "rednecks."
Republican Sen. Majority Leader Dan Webster also praised the bill, adding that it would help students "think critically" and "constantly raise questions," according to The Orlando Sentinel.
Opponents of the bill, however, argued that the new measure was less about academic freedom than it was about the promotion of religion in schools.
"This bill is not about evolution. It's not even about academic freedom. It's an attempt to bring the controversial creationism into our public-school classrooms," said Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
In addition to Florida, two other states, Missouri and Louisiana, have also submitted Academic Freedom legislation.