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LGBTQ orgs & families sue Ron DeSantis to stop the “Don’t Say Gay” law

Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the Don't Say Gay bill
Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the Don't Say Gay billPhoto: Screenshot/Facebook

A coalition of LGBTQ organizations and families has just filed a federal lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to stop the “Don’t Say Gay” law, arguing that the law illegally discriminates against LGBTQ people and their families.

“Through H.B. 1557, Florida would deny to an entire generation that LGBTQ people exist and have equal dignity,” the lawsuit says. “This effort to control young minds through state censorship — and to demean LGBTQ lives by denying their reality — is a grave abuse of power.

Related: Actor Ron Perlman calls DeSantis a “Nazi pig” while railing against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that LGBTQ people and their families are at home in our constitutional order. The State of Florida has no right to declare them outcasts, or to treat their allies as outlaws, by punishing schools where someone dares to affirm their identity and dignity.”

The “Don’t Say Gay” law, or H.B. 1557, bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary school, but the lawsuit notes that DeSantis himself has implied that he only means LGBTQ people can’t be talked about in school.

“Governor DeSantis also made clear that the bill’s limitation on ‘sexual instruction’ does not apply to instruction on heterosexuality and cisgender identities,” the lawsuit said. “Rather, he asked rhetorically, ‘How many parents want their kids to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction?'”

“Governor DeSantis’s press secretary, Christine Pushaw, confirmed this understanding. She called H.B. 1557 an ‘Anti-Grooming Bill’ and said that ‘If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.’ Charitably read, Pushaw’s statement implied that even discussing LGBTQ issues or acknowledging LGBTQ people’s existence entices students to ‘become’ LGBTQ; less charitably and perhaps more accurately read, it is a gross assertion that school personnel who discuss LGBTQ issues with students are akin to molesters.”

Supporters of the law have generally defended it by saying that any discussion of LGBTQ people in the presence of children is akin to pedophilia and have accused opponents of the bill of promoting “grooming,” or being child molesters.

The lawsuit says that the “Don’t Say Gay” law is full of vague and broad words and will allow teachers and school districts to enforce it arbitrarily. The bill also allows parents to sue if they feel the law was violated, which turns them effectively into untrained censors of what occurs in classrooms.

“Already, our children have told us that they are afraid that they will not be able to talk about their family at school,” said Dan and Brent VanTice, a gay couple who have two first-grade students in Florida. They’re plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “We are heartbroken that our children are already feeling isolated and stigmatized by this law.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Equality Florida, Family Equality, and several LGBTQ people and families. The National Center for Lesbian Rights and legendary LGBTQ rights lawyer Roberta Kaplan are arguing the case.

Kaplan is the lawyer who helped overturn part of the Defense of Marriage Act when she helped Edith Windsor sue the U.S. federal government in U.S. v. Windsor.

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