Lawsuit filed to challenge Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

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On Thursday, March 31st a lawsuit was filed to challenge the Parental Rights in Education bill (HB 1557). The plaintiffs include LGBTQ+ advocacy groups Equality Florida, Family Equality in addition to a Florida teacher, parents and their children.

The lawsuit was filed in the federal Northern District of Florida just three days after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed bill HB 1557 dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by its detractors.

DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the state Department of Education, and the State Board of Education are listed as defendants in the 80-page complaint.

The lawsuit specifically challenges the part of the law that seeks to forbid the instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten to third grade. The bill also states that students in older grades be taught sexual orientation and gender identity through age-appropriate instruction approved by the state.

“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade three or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” the bill read.

Equality Florida Spokesperson Brandon Wolf believes that the lawsuit will encourage further review of the HB 1557 bill and that the courts will find the law to be “blatantly unconstitutional.”

“If the court is committed to the dignity and well-being of Florida’s families and students, then there is really only one logical conclusion to a case like this one, and finding that this law is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Wolf.

The lawsuit accuses the bill of being a series of violations of constitutionally ordained rights and a direct attack on freedom of speech, drafted with the purpose to revitalize “outdated sex-based stereotypes.”

“HB 1557 piles one violation on top of another. It offends principles of free speech and equal protection by seeking to censor discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity that recognize and respect LGBTQ+ people and their families. It offends due process by using broad and vague terms to define its prohibitions… and it arises from discriminatory purposes sex-based stereotypes that offend deeply rooted constitutional and statutory requirements,” the lawsuit said.

Some champions for bill HB 1557 praise it as a move to empower parents by allowing them to block select LGBTQ+ topics from curriculums. The plaintiffs disagree, critiquing the classroom censorship as a “grave abuse of power” that attempts to erase LGBTQ+ lives from reality.

“This effort to control young minds through state censorship and to demean LGBTQ+ lives by denying their reality… is a grave power of abuse,” read the lawsuit.

Gov. DeSantis remains defiant in the face of criticism for the bill. In a press conference held on Thursday, March 31st he waved off the lawsuit believing the plaintiffs’ claims to have no merit. DeSantis intends to vigorously defend HB 1557.

“So, I don’t think that any of the legal claims have merit… the bottom line is, you know we are going to defend this vigorously,” said DeSantis.

As it stands there is no hearing scheduled for the lawsuit and HB 1557 will go into effect in July.