National News

Settlement in challenge to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law clarifies scope of LGBTQ+ restrictions

todayMarch 13, 2024


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(NEW YORK) — A settlement has been reached in the challenge against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, HB1557, known by LGBTQ+ advocates as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

The settlement, announced Monday, clarifies the scope of the legislation, which prohibits any classroom curriculum about sexual orientation or gender identity for students in kindergarten through third grade. It also restricts such lessons for older students.

“The point of yesterday’s settlement was to have clarity when there was confusion, to have safety and dignity when there was fear, and to make sure that no kid in the state of Florida has to go to school worried about what they should say, what they can say, worried about their parents, etc.,” Roberta Kaplan, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told ABC News.

The law remains in place, but the settlement clarifies that students and educators can discuss LGBTQ+ topics, given those conversations are not part of formal curriculum. The clarifications also state that students can write about such topics in their academic work.

Notably, the settlement includes clarification on library books, stating that library books with LGBTQ+ themes may not be banned under the legislation so long as they are not being used for instruction.

Despite the clarifications, the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis — who signed the bill into law in 2022 — maintains that the bill will continue to be an effort to “keep radical gender and sexual ideology out of the classrooms of public school children.”

DeSantis and supporters of the legislation have argued that the bill is a necessary and reasonable measure to allow parents to have a say in when and how to introduce LGBTQ+ topics to children.

“As one of the many plaintiffs in this case, it is an exciting morning to wake up in Miami Dade County and know that my kids don’t need to be afraid to show who they are and how they are with the family that they have,” Amy Morrison told ABC News.

Morrison and her partner, Cecile Houry, were two of 19 plaintiffs in the case. Morrison told ABC News the bill caused fear and confusion even in their own family. She said that because of the bill, their eldest son worried about the repercussions of saying that he has two moms.

“This allows us to now go back into the classroom and have teachers and parents, educators and kids and families all know the language they absolutely can say,” Morrison said. “We can speak about our families and we can speak about who we are and that the law is not going to put that at any risk.”

The 19 plaintiffs in the case included LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, parents, students and educators, who sued the state of Florida in 2022, the day after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law.

The settlement also clarifies that the law does not apply to extracurricular activities, which allows for the reinstatement of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in schools that may have disbanded them. Kaplan said that these clarifications are vital to creating a safe, educational environment where students feel included.

“People have been afraid for two years,” Houry told ABC News. “All of those families, teachers that could no longer put a picture of their families in a classroom, all the safe place[s] that had been removed in different schools. The GSA, that it didn’t feel safe that they could operate or couldn’t find a faculty mentor to sponsor them.”

“This settlement puts a stop to all of this by saying that this is all OK. We can go back to having all those things without being afraid,” she said.

The lawsuit alleged that the bill was “impermissibly vague, was obviously motivated by hostility to LGBTQ+ persons and families, and created an enforcement system that enabled discrimination and discouraged efforts to fight it.”

Both the plaintiffs and the State of Florida claimed victory following the settlement.

“We fought hard to ensure this law couldn’t be maligned in court, as it was in the public arena by the media and large corporate actors,” General Counsel Ryan Newman said in a statement. “We are victorious, and Florida’s classrooms will remain a safe place under the Parental Rights in Education Act.”

While the law remains in place, the plaintiffs and their representation still find solace in the effect the settlement’s clarifications will have in schools.

“I’m hoping that yesterday’s settlement will return us to the road toward sanity into understanding something that I think every American agrees with – that every kid in this country has a right to go to school every day, to not worry about being bullied, to not worry about being treated improperly or unequally because of who they are or who their parents are,” Kaplan said. “That the point of public schools is for kids to be respected and to get a great education.”

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