Attorney General Ellison challenges Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law in court
Joins 16 AGs in brief arguing that extreme, discriminatory law lacks legitimate educational purpose, would harm students, parents, and teachers
August 4, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general in opposing Florida’s new “Don’t Say Gay” law that prevents classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. This extreme, discriminatory law poses a serious threat to LGBTQ+ students who are particularly vulnerable to being harmed by discrimination.
“It’s my job to stand up for people who are harmed by discrimination — and what harms Florida kids, parents, and teachers harms every one of us,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Essential to being able to live with dignity, safety, and respect is being able to say loud and clear who you are as a human being, to speak your truth. But under this law, Florida kids can’t speak their truth. Their parents can’t speak their truth. Teachers can’t speak their truth. As a result, outcomes for students are worse, teachers can’t teach the reality of our society, LGBTQ kids and their families live in a climate of intimidation and fear, and everyone is harmed. As Attorney General, and as a human being, I can’t sit by and watch that happen without trying to put a stop to it.”
The amicus brief that Attorney General Ellison and the coalition filed in support of the plaintiffs in Equality Florida v. Florida State Board of Education, which was and filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, challenges Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act,” known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Florida’s new law outlaws “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through Grade 3 entirely. The law also requires that the state education agency write new classroom instructions for standards that must be followed by Grades 4 through 12.
But the law does not define many of its key terms, like “classroom instruction,” so Florida teachers are already censoring themselves out of fear of the law. In addition, the law allows a parent to bring a civil claim against a school district to enforce its vague prohibitions, the threat of which creates a culture of intimidation and fear.
A group of students, parents, teachers, and organizations have challenged the Act in federal district court, seeking to prevent its enforcement and alleging that it violates, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause, among other things.
In their brief, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition make two main points:
- Florida’s law is extreme. Although Florida claims the Act is intended to protect children and preserve parental choice, the attorneys general have curricula in place that allow for age-appropriate discussion of LGBTQ+ issues while respecting parental views on the topic.
- 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. These harms extend to youth not just in Florida, but throughout the country.
Joining Attorney General Ellison in this brief are District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Plotkin, who led the brief, and the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Oregon.