Florida’s ‘Parental Rights in Education’ law opposed by 15 states, DC

Attorneys general seek to help challengers of controversial law

FILE - A new billboard welcoming visitors to "Florida: The Sunshine 'Don't Say Gay or Trans' State. is displayed April 21, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. The Florida Legislature has passed a bill to dissolve a private government controlled by Disney that provides municipal-like services for its 27,000 acres in the Sunshine State. The proposal has been pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, and is largely viewed as retribution for Disney’s criticism of a new state law that bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) (John Raoux, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Saying the law will “stigmatize and harm LGBTQ youth,” attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia are seeking to aid challengers to a new Florida law that restricts instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida public schools.

The states and the District of Columbia sought approval this week to file a brief in support of a constitutional challenge filed by the LGBTQ-advocacy groups Equality Florida and Family Equality and other plaintiffs.

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The law (HB 1557) prevents instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and requires that such instruction be “age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards” in older grades. Republican lawmakers titled the measure the “Parental Rights in Education” bill. Opponents labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The state has asked U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to dismiss the challenge. But the 15 states and the District of Columbia argue that the case should not be dismissed. They filed a motion Wednesday seeking approval to submit a friend-of-the-court brief. They also attached a copy of the brief.

“In short, Florida’s extreme approach implies the absence of a legitimate pedagogical purpose, rendering its restrictions on speech and targeting of a minority highly suspect,” the brief said. “And (the 15) states’ experiences show that reasonable policies are available that include LGBTQ people, foster free speech, and accommodate parents. Florida’s turn, instead, to restricting speech and targeting a minority supplies additional evidence of the act’s unconstitutionality.”

The 15 states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Oregon.

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