Well that was fast. A collection of LGBT people and groups have sued Gov. Ron DeSantis over the now infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill he signed into law last week.
On March 31 a group of students, educators and advocates filed a lawsuit against DeSantis and Florida’s Board of Education claiming that the “Don’t Say Gay” law “stigmatizes, silences, and erases LGBTQ people in Florida’s public schools,” according to NBC News. The Parental Rights in Education bill prohibits classroom discussions in K-3 regarding gender identity and sexual orientation. In fact, 6 in 10 Americans opposed the bill before it became law.
The law is expected to go into effect July 1.
The 80-page complaint filed by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP law firm and the National Center for Lesbian Rights is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to strike the law down, NBC News reported.
Equality Florida and Family Equality are among the plaintiffs.
“With the passage of HB 1557, Florida has not only taken a giant step backward, but it has done so at the expense of our children, the most vulnerable members of society,” Roberta Kaplan of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP said in a statement. “It is hard to imagine anything more offensive to our constitutional system than treating one group of school kids as second class based solely on who they are or who their parents are. This law cannot be allowed to stand.”
Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director, called the lawsuit a “political Hail-Mary to undermine parental rights in Florida.”
“This calculated, politically motivated, virtue-signaling lawsuit is meritless, and we will defend the legality of parents to protect their young children from sexual content in Florida public schools,” Fenske said, according to NBC News.
While Fenske may be expressing confidence in the legality of the bill, other laws DeSantis championed last year, such as his so-called anti-riot bill have not fared well before federal judges.
A judge issued a preliminary injunction in September 2021 to block DeSantis’ efforts in enforcing the anti-riot law that civil rights groups claim violates the First Amendment, according to Courthouse News Service. DeSantis appealed that decision to the 11th Circuit March 17.
Meanwhile, a controversial election law DeSantis signed last year was recently struck down by a federal judge. The bill tightened the rules on mailed ballots, drop boxes and other popular election methods.
“For the past 20 years, the majority in the Florida Legislature has attacked the voting rights of its Black constituents," the judge wrote.
DeSantis has vowed to appeal that decision too.
Fenske also claimed, without proof, Disney funded the “Don’t Say Gay” bill lawsuit due the “war of words” between DeSantis and Disney over the bill, according to CNBC.
“It’s interesting to see that Disney did not directly join the suit as a named Plaintiff, given their recent activism,” Fenske said. “To the extent that Disney has funded these efforts, parents beware: the dollars you spend to make little boys’ and girls’ dreams come true are being used to sexualize your children in school.”
Conservatives have attempted to conflate sex education with sexual orientation and gender identity. They have pushed this false narrative on social media with the hashtag #ReadTheBill. But while the bill was making its way through the legislature one Republican state senator attempted to clarify this by offering an amendment that would specifically ban discussions about “human sexuality or sexual activity,” while removing the words sexual orientation and gender identity from the bill. It was defeated by Republicans.