LGBTQ+ Rights

LGBTQ Advocates Sue Florida Over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the federal complaint three days after Florida House Bill 1557 was signed into law.

People protesting against the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, which LGBTQ+ groups are now suing the state of F...
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On March 31, LGBTQ+ advocate groups filed a federal complaint against Florida House Bill 1557, aka the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill, which was signed into law on March 28, bans any classroom discussion about gender or sexual identity from kindergarten to third grade, along with a number of other vague, confusing, and homophobic provisions.

Lawyers from the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of Equality Florida and Family Equality, as well as on behalf of individual students, parents, and a teacher.

“Over time and continuing today, our nation has strived to make good on its promise that everyone is entitled to be treated with equal dignity under the law. That is true when it comes to LGBTQ Americans, who now have the constitutional right to identify openly as LGBTQ, to marry, and to form families with children,” said Roberta Kaplan, founding partner of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, in a joint press statement.

The law’s vague language has critics saying that the law has wider implications that will hurt all Florida children.

“For example, can a student of two gay parents talk about their family or their parents’ marriage during a class debate about civics? Are teachers allowed to respond if students with gay parents discuss their family life in class? If so, what can they say? What can a teacher say to a student or a class if a student is being bullied in school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity? Does a school librarian have to remove every book with LGBTQ characters or references?” reads the lawsuit.

Several of the plaintiffs expressed the negative impacts the bill has already made on their lives.

“Already, our children have told us that they are afraid that they will not be able to talk about their family at school,” Dan and Brent VanTice, parents of two first-grade students, said in the press release. “We are heartbroken that our children are already feeling isolated and stigmatized by this law.”

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