Gay hiking

LGBTQ groups sue Florida over so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Gay rights advocates sued Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday to block a new law that bans classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third year.

The law catapulted Florida and DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, to the forefront of the nation’s culture wars. Critics call it the “Don’t Say Gay” law and argue that its real intent is to marginalize LGBTQ people and their families.

The challenge filed in federal court in Tallahassee on behalf of Equality Florida and Family Equality alleges that the law violates the constitutional rights of free speech, equal protection and due process of students and families.

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

“The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that LGBTQ people and their families are at home in our constitutional order. The state of Florida has no right to declare them outcasts, or treat their allies as outlaws, by punishing schools where someone dares to assert their identity and dignity,” the lawsuit reads.

LOOK: How Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law Regulates Gender and Sexual Orientation Classes

The law deliberately uses broad language and invites arbitrary and discriminatory application, allowing parents to be roving censors who can sue school boards for damages for any perceived violations, the lawsuit adds.

The law states: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity may not take place in kindergarten through 3rd grade or in a manner that does not is not appropriate for the age or development of the students in accordance with state standards.” Parents could sue districts for violation.

US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona met with LGBTQ students and family members at an Orlando school on Thursday, privately discussing how the legislation is affecting their lives. Cardona’s visit was one of several Biden administration events on Thursday showing support for the queer community, including a presidential proclamation recognizing Transgender Visibility Day.

“We know that while many transgender students receive valuable support in school, many others face significant challenges due to hostility directed at them by others,” Cardona said. “This includes a growing number of state laws that bully and intimidate LGBTQI+ students and their families.”

DeSantis and other Republicans have repeatedly described the rules as reasonable, saying children should learn about sexual orientation and gender identity from their parents, not in schools.

“We will ensure that parents can send their children to school for education, not indoctrination,” the governor said when he signed it into law this week.

Many critics have said the law’s language, particularly the phrases “classroom instruction” and “age-appropriate,” could be interpreted so broadly that discussion at any level could trigger lawsuits. , creating a classroom atmosphere where teachers would avoid subjects altogether.

Intense public backlash followed the bill’s introduction into Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature this year, with the White House, Hollywood celebrities, students, Democrats and LGBTQ advocates condemning the policy. Legal challenges are expected.

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The filing by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP and the National Center for Lesbian Rights seeks to prevent the law from taking effect and also names Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other law enforcement officials. education as defendants.

“Already our children have told us that they are afraid that they will not be able to talk about their families at school,” Dan and Brent VanTice, parents of two first-graders, said in the statement announcing the lawsuit. “We are heartbroken that our children already feel isolated and stigmatized by this law.”

Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association union, said the law was politically motivated because elementary schools, especially kindergarten through third grade, do not teach these subjects and have state curriculum standards guiding classroom lessons.

The law fuels an ongoing feud between DeSantis and Democratic President Joe Biden, who tweeted after DeSantis signed the bill this week that “My administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family — by Florida and nationwide. Cardona said his agency would monitor any resulting federal civil rights violations.