Gay rights advocates are suing Florida Governor Ron Descentis over a new law banning classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten until third grade.
The law puts Florida and Desantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, at the forefront of the country’s cultural war. Critics call it the “don’t call it gay” law and argue that its real purpose 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 constitutionally protected freedom of speech, equal protection, and appropriate process rights for students and families.
“This attempt to control young minds through state censorship – and to deny their reality by degrading LGBTQ life – is a serious abuse of power,” the lawsuit states.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that LGBTQ people and their families are at home under our constitutional mandate. The state of Florida has no right to declare them outcasts, or to treat their allies as outsiders, punishing schools where anyone dares to assert their identity and dignity, ”the lawsuit states.
The law intentionally imposes broad terms and invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, giving parents the power to censor censors who can sue the school board for damages based on a perceived violation, the lawsuit added.
The law states: “Classroom instruction by school staff or third parties regarding sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten in grade 3 or in a way that is not age-appropriate or developmental for students according to state standards.” Parents will be able to sue the districts for violations.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona met Thursday with LGBTQ students and their families at a school in Orlando to discuss in private how the law is affecting their lives. Cardona’s visit was one of several events in the Biden administration on Thursday that showed support for the Cuarre community, including a presidential announcement recognizing the visibility of Transgender Day.
DeSantis and other Republicans have repeatedly called the rules reasonable, saying children should learn about their parents’ sexual orientation and gender identity from their parents, not from school.
“We will ensure that parents can send their children to school for education, not an instinct,” the governor said at the signing of the law this week.
Many critics say the language of the law, especially the phrases “classroom instruction” and “age appropriate”, can be so broadly interpreted that any grade discussion could trigger a lawsuit, creating a classroom environment where teachers would avoid the subject altogether.
The bill, introduced this year in Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature, drew strong public reaction, with the White House, Hollywood celebrities, students, Democrats and LGBTQ advocates condemning the policy. Legal challenges expected.
Kaplan seeks to prevent the Hacker & Fink LLP and the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ filing law from taking effect, and names Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other education officials as defendants.
“Meanwhile, our kids have told us they’re afraid they won’t be able to talk about their families at school,” Dan and Brent Vantis, parents of two first-graders, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “We are sorry that our children are already feeling isolated and stigmatized by this law.”
Andrew Spurr, president of the Florida Education Association Union, said the law is politically motivated because elementary schools, especially kindergarten through third grade, do not teach these subjects and the standard of the classroom curriculum is state curriculum.
The law adds fuel to an endless feud between Descentis and Democratic President Joe Biden, who tweeted after signing the Descentis bill this week that “my administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family in Florida and across the country.” Says his agency will monitor for consequences of any federal civil rights violations.