Lawsuit filed against Florida's so-called 'Don't Say Gay' law within days of signing

The bill was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis just three days earlier.

March 31, 2022, 2:45 PM

A lawsuit has been filed against the State of Florida over the newly signed Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed the "Don’t Say Gay" law by critics, just three days after it was signed.

"Through H.B. 1557, Florida would deny to an entire generation that LGBTQ people exist and have equal dignity," the complaint reads. "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 complaint was filed in a Tallahassee court Thursday by LGBTQ rights organizations Equality Florida, Family Equality and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as well as several Florida families.

The complaint alleges that the law violates the constitutionally protected rights of free speech, equal protection and due process of students and families.

PHOTO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis displays the signed Parental Rights in Education, aka the Don't Say Gay bill, flanked by elementary school students during a news conferencey, March 28, 2022, at Classical Preparatory school in Shady Hills.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis displays the signed Parental Rights in Education, aka the Don't Say Gay bill, flanked by elementary school students during a news conferencey, March 28, 2022, at Classical Preparatory school in Shady Hills.
Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP

"We made a promise to defend the rights of all students to have a healthy environment to learn and thrive and for all parents to know their families are included," Equality Florida said in a statement.

The law will ban classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade or instruction on those topics "in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards," according to the legislation, HB 1557.

Under this law, parents can also decline any mental, emotional and physical health services available to their children at school.

Schools will be required to notify parents of their child's use of school health services unless there is reason to believe "that disclosure would subject the student to abuse, abandonment or neglect."

Parents could sue their school district if they believe there is a violation of any of these requirements or restrictions.

PHOTO: Marchers make their way toward the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg, Fla., March 12, 2022.
Marchers make their way toward the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg, Fla., March 12, 2022.
Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP

"This lawsuit is a political Hail-Mary to undermine parental rights in Florida," a spokesperson from Gov. Ron DeSantis' office told ABC News. "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."

His office slammed the lawsuit, stating that the complaint claims are "erroneous."

"This law does not chill speech -- instead it returns speech on these topics to the parents," the office said. "The law does not prohibit teachers from having opinions, lifestyles or advocacy in their personal right on their own time, and this law does not prohibit teachers from responding to student questions."

The Sarasota School District and school board declined to comment. The other defendants in the case did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

Several families with LGBTQ students are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"My school has been a safe environment where I have been able to express my identity," said Zander Moricz, an 18-year-old high school senior and plaintiff. "I would not have been able to learn and thrive without that support. My teachers have already told me that they will no longer be able to have some of the classroom discussions that helped me feel accepted in school."

One parent expressed concern for her transgender daughter.

"I am frightened that this new law will prevent my daughter’s teachers from protecting her from bullying at school," said Lindsay McClelland, mother of plaintiff Jane Doe, a transgender fifth-grader at a Florida public school. "All I want is for my daughter to be able to learn in a safe environment like any other student."

PHOTO: Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community attend the "Say Gay Anyway" rally in Miami Beach, Florida, March 13, 2022.
Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community attend the "Say Gay Anyway" rally in Miami Beach, Florida, March 13, 2022.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Supporters of the bill argue that schools are indoctrinating students with ideas about sexual orientation and gender identity. They say parents deserve more input in the services children receive and the conversations children are having about those topics.

"I think the last couple years have really revealed to parents that they are being ignored increasingly across our country when it comes to their kids education," DeSantis claimed at the signing.

He added, "We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination."

The bill is expected to go into effect July 1.

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