Equality Florida preps for legal action after Legislature passes LGBTQ education bill
Marriage equality turns 5 in Florida.

demonstration-for-gay-marriage-AP
'We will not allow this bill to harm LGBTQ Floridians.'

Equality Florida has announced it will look to pursue legal action against the state’s controversial parental rights legislation governing classroom instruction on LGBTQ matters after its passage Tuesday morning in the Florida Legislature. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, the bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk, where Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the proposal into law. The House cleared the bill 69-47 two weeks ago.

“Let us be clear: should its vague language be interpreted in any way that causes harm to a single child, teacher or family, we will lead legal action against the State of Florida to challenge this bigoted legislation,” Equality Florida said in a statement.

Senators accepted the bill in a 22-17 vote Tuesday morning, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing. Two Republican legislators, Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jennifer Bradley, broke from their party and voted against the bill. The vote followed hours of impassioned debate between the legislators and protest from students.

The proposal (HB 1557) would limit classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity, a move Republican leadership says would bolster parental rights. Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, who filed the Senate version of the bill (SB 1834), presented the House legislation.

In responding to the bill’s passage, Equality Florida cited a post from DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw, who called opponents of the legislation “groomers” in a tweet.

“We will not sit by and allow the Governor’s office to call us pedophiles. We will not allow this bill to harm LGBTQ Floridians. We will not permit any school to enforce this in a way that endangers the safety of children. We stand ready to fight for Floridians in court and hold lawmakers who supported this bill accountable at the ballot box,” the organization continued in its statement.

The measure would ban classroom “instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity” for students in kindergarten through third grade, or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The legislation does not restrict the topics from being barred across all ages if the school district deems the instruction age-inappropriate.

Parents who think a classroom discussion was not age-appropriate or who are unsupportive of a district’s policies would be able to sue for damages and attorneys fees.

Democratic opponents of the legislation are concerned the vague language of the measure will have a chilling effect among teachers, who they say may avoid the discussion of LGBTQ families as a whole out of fear of a lawsuit. Democratic Senators attempted to amend the bill during its second hearing on the floor Monday, unsuccessfully putting forward amendments that would add protections for LGBTQ students as well as clarify the vague language of the bill.

“At every turn, the Florida Legislature rejected reasonable amendments to this legislation and refused to mitigate its harm. Now, in deference to the extreme political agenda of the Governor, the Florida Senate has passed the hateful Don’t Say Gay bill and sent it to his desk,” Equality Florida stated. “Lawmakers rejected the voices of tens of thousands who sent emails and made phone calls asking for them to put a stop to this bill, thousands of courageous students who walked out of class, hundreds of people who testified before their bodies, dozens of child welfare organizations and leaders who spoke up to name the harms of the bill, and their own Republican colleagues who refused to support it. Instead, they locked arms with the angry mobs hurling anti-LGBTQ slurs at those asking for nothing more than a safe place to go to school without having to hide who they are.”

The potential of legal action against the bill also was discussed in debate. Miami Dade Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo cited sponsor Baxley’s comments from Monday’s floor discussion, in which Baxley said he brought the bill because there is a cultural shift encouraging students to “come out.” On that note, Pizzo argued that courts will throw out the bill for “invidious discrimination.”

“That, ladies and gentlemen, will be what the court points to and quotes as a prima facie case, on its face, of invidious discrimination for what we have targeted and we have selected as a protected class,” Pizzo said.

Waves of Florida students have also showed up to protest the legislation, joining the public criticism from physicians, members of the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ advocacy organizations, the Florida PTA and ACLU Florida at committee hearings. Equality Florida also launched a two-part ad campaign to address the bill, drawing concerns over censorship.

“We are inspired by the thousands of students who bravely led and organized peaceful walkouts to protest the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, forcing lawmakers to hear their stories. We are grateful for Democrats in the Florida Legislature who showed up for us every step of the way, especially our LGBTQ lawmakers: Reps. Carlos Guillermo SmithMichele Rayner-Goolsby, and Sen. Shevrin Jones. And we salute the 10 GOP lawmakers who broke with GOP leadership by voting against this bill.”

The bill also found national attention, including criticism from the White House, which denounced the bill as “hateful” and a lampooning over the weekend on “Saturday Night Live.”

“We thank the hundreds of people from across the state came — some who drove over eight hours — to the Florida Capitol to testify and share their stories, over 602,503 people who sent emails to lawmakers, volunteers who made 59,900 phone calls to connect pro-equality Floridians with their lawmakers to voice their opposition, and more than 3,500 people donated to help provide the resources needed to fight in Tallahassee — including the launch of a broadcast TV commercial to help highlight the harms of this bill,” Equality Florida stated. “Our fight for full equality continues.”

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]


5 comments

  • Marvin

    March 9, 2022 at 2:46 pm

    Floridians need be ware. The movement of people to the state from the Northern States (liberal), and the west (Liberal progressive crazy) are going to influence the future of a free Florida. Time to firm the moto” Don’t tread on Me”. Parents have the final decision over their children. Neither the state and certainly not an under educated self serving narcist teacher, has this right. If the school board is out of line vote them out of office. If the BLM, LGBTQ+, ANTIFA, ABC letters don’t like it, I heard that California finally opened up.

    • A Northern

      March 9, 2022 at 3:55 pm

      I thought the motto was was “no textbooks past 1844?”

    • Carl.J

      March 9, 2022 at 6:52 pm

      I bet you get angry when people call southern culture “nothing but swamps trailers and overcooked birds by undereducated people” lol

  • just sayin

    March 9, 2022 at 3:55 pm

    Here’s the actual text so the legal scholars in the comments can work their magic – 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’s Horrible!

    March 9, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    See this everyone?
    You let schools run wild and before you know it women want to To vote and Sherman discovers a love for fire!

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories