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LGBTQ rights groups challenge Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law in federal court

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed the "Parental Rights in Education" bill until signing the measure into law earlier this week.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed the "Parental Rights in Education" bill until signing the measure into law earlier this week.

LGBTQ rights groups are challenging a new law that will prohibit K-3 classroom instruction on topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity when it takes effect in July.

In a lawsuit filed on Thursday, the plaintiffs — Equality Florida and Family Equality — argue that what critics call the "Don't Say Gay" measure violates the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The law will ban classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in upper grade levels if it’s not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate." It allows parents to sue school districts if they believe the law has been violated.

Plaintiffs warn that the new prohibition’s “broad and vague terms” could lead to “discriminatory enforcement” and a greater “chilling effect on speech.”

The National Center for Lesbian rights filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Florida on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The challenge comes days after Gov. Ron DeSantis enthusiastically signed the measure into law at a public ceremony. The new law — HB 1557 — is titled "Parental Rights in Education."

“It’s about protecting parents’ ability to be involved," DeSantis said. "It’s making sure the classroom instruction, particularly at these very young ages, are focused on math, science and reading."

Plaintiffs note in the lawsuit that the state already has policy in place preventing the instruction on human sexuality that's not age-appropriate.

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Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.