'Don't Say Gay' Bill Has Its First Legal Challenge

DeSantis says Florida will defeat federal lawsuit
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2022 6:50 PM CDT
'Don't Say Gay' Bill Has Its First Legal Challenge
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis displays the signed Parental Rights in Education, also called the "Don't Say Gay" bill, flanked by elementary school students during a news conference on Monday.   (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

(Newser) – Three days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed restrictions on teaching early elementary students about sexual orientation and gender identity into law, the legislation was challenged in court. A group consisting of advocates for LGBTQ people and parents, students, and a teacher, Politico reports, filed a lawsuit that calls the legislation "an unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ people in Florida's public schools." The case, the first challenge of the law, was filed Thursday in federal court in Tallahassee.
"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 suit says, per NPR.

As defendants, the suit names DeSantis, the state Department of Education, the state Board of Education, state education officials, and certain local school boards. It was brought on behalf of the groups Equality Florida and Family Equality and local school parties, seeking to prevent the new law from taking effect. "We are going to defend this vigorously," DeSantis said at a press conference on Thursday. "We'll be successful on that." The suit attacks the law as vague, saying that "nobody knows exactly what the statutory language covers."

The governor and other Republicans supporting the measure have argued that children should learn about sexual orientation and gender identity from their parents, not teachers. In a statement announcing the filing, Dan and Brent VanTice, parents of two first-grade students, said, "Already, our children have told us that they are afraid that they will not be able to talk about their family at school." The filing says "the subordination and erasure of LGBTQ life that H.B. 1557 seeks to achieve has already begun—and it has already imposed concrete harms on countless children and families in Florida." (Read more Don't Say Gay bill stories.)

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