Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced a coalition of 18 attorneys general that are opposing Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act — also known as the “don’t say gay” law.
Racine’s office said in a press release late last week that the law posed a threat to LGBTQ+ students, emphasizing that they are at particular risk and harm to discrimination.
“My office has a strong track record of fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in the District and across the country to make sure that everyone can simply be who they are and love who they love,” Racine said. “Florida’s law offers no benefit to anyone and in fact puts children and families in harm’s way. We will continue to use all of our authority to help strike down this law and any other hateful, discriminatory policies that threaten people’s fundamental freedoms.”
In an amicus brief submitted in support of a lawsuit brought by several Florida families, the attorneys general state that the law, “are far outside the bounds of ordinary educational decision-making,” adding that its “outlier” status further indicates it is “constitutionally suspect.”
The law, which has been called vague by critics, bans “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner. “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” it also states.
The families’ lawsuit, which was filed only days after the bill was signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, argues that the legislation violates Due Process and Equal Protection, as well as First Amendment free speech rights. The suit also raises questions about how the law will change in-classroom discussions and school functions. Already, many teachers and school district officials have voiced uncertainty about what goes against the law and what doesn’t.
“To appreciate how this dynamic will unfold in practice, just consider how students, teachers, parents, guests, and school personnel might navigate these common questions: Can a student of two gay parents talk about their family during a class debate about civics? Can that student paint a family portrait in art class? Can a lesbian student refer to their own coming out experience while responding to a work of literature? Can a transgender student talk about their gender identity while studying civil rights in history class? What if that occurs in homeroom, or during an extracurricular activity with a faculty supervisor, or in an op-ed in the faculty supervised school newspaper? Are teachers allowed to respond if students discuss these aspects of their identities or family life in class? If so, what can they say?” the suit reads.
The brief points out that the states that submitted it “have curricula in place that allow for age-appropriate discussion of LGBTQ+ issues while respecting parental views on the topic,” according to the release.
“The law is causing significant harms to students, parents, teachers, and other states. Non-inclusive educational environments have severe negative health impacts on LGBTQ+ students, resulting in increased rates of mental health disorders and suicide attempts,” the release said. “These harms extend to youth not just in Florida, but throughout the country.”
In addition to Racine, the attorneys general of New Jersey, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.