Sixteen attorneys general have filed a brief opposing Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, saying Republicans’ attacks on LGBTQ+ communities are unconstitutional and cause national harm.
On Wednesday, AGs from fifteen states and the District of Columbia filed an amicus brief in Equality Florida v Florida State Board of Education, asking the court to deny Florida’s motion to dismiss the suit. The sixteen signees—uniformly Democratic—represent California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and the District of Columbia.
By enacting its “Parental Rights in Education” law, the AGs write, Florida lawmakers have negatively impacted not just queer and trans youth and their families within the state, but across the U.S. They say the stigma now codified in law “threatens grave harm to the health and well-being of LGBTQ individuals, their families, and their communities.”
“When a law anywhere sends the message that some members of the community are disfavored, as the Act does, it compounds the stigma associated with being part of that community everywhere,” the brief argues, citing research including recent Trevor Project polling that found anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has a direct impact on the mental health of queer and trans youth.
The AGs also contend that “Don’t Say Gay” is “constitutionally suspect” and has no legitimate basis in education or personal liberty. Because queer and trans people are and always have been part of history and everyday life, they write, “[i]t is not a legitimate pedagogical interest […] to exclude the entire class of LGBTQ people and their experiences from the education provided by public schools by censoring discussion about their identities.”
Should the case continue past Florida’s motion to dismiss, as the AGs argue it must, the brief may foretell a more comprehensive one in the future that would argue against the constitutionality of “Don’t Say Gay.” “Make no mistake: [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis’ ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law is an unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ+ students from Florida’s public schools,” said California AG Rob Bonta in a press release Thursday. “We urge the court to affirm the rights and dignities of all of our children and allow this lawsuit to move forward.”
Equality Florida, a nonprofit LGBTQ+ advocacy group, has emerged as one of DeSantis and the Florida GOP’s loudest opponents this year as efforts to outlaw LGBTQ+ expression and identification ramped steadily upwards. The lawsuit originally included DeSantis himself as a defendant, but charges against the governor were dismissed in July.
“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,” the group wrote in a statement in March. Now, at least, some Democrats are ready to follow that lead.
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