Judge Blames DeSantis/GOP Toxic Rhetoric and School District Overreach for Hostile Anti-LGBTQ Actions; Lawsuit Against Don't Say LGBTQ Dismissed on Technicalities

Judge Blames DeSantis/GOP Toxic Rhetoric and School District Overreach for Hostile Anti-LGBTQ Actions; Lawsuit Against Don't Say LGBTQ Dismissed on Technicalities

TALLAHASSEE, FL -- In a ruling that affirmed the toxic anti-LGBTQ fervor being whipped up by Governor DeSantis and his GOP allies and blamed school districts for overreaching the law, federal Judge Allen Winsor dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Don’t Say LGBTQ law on the grounds that the plaintiffs, which include students, families, educators, Family Equality, and Equality Florida, lack legal standing to challenge the harms inflicted on students and families. The judge chastised school districts statewide for applying Don’t Say LGBTQ far beyond the law’s logical bounds. Equality Florida issued the following statement in response:

Ihis ruling, the judge confirms what we have argued from the beginning: that the anti-LGBTQ animus fueling this law is causing harm. He acknowledges that rhetoric like that being used by Governor DeSantis and the zealotry of school districts desperate to avoid his ire are at the root of the chilling effects we’re witnessing across the state. The toxic climate being created by the governor and his allies to score cheap political points is, indeed, causing damage.

We are encouraged to see the court call out school districts that have overreacted to Don’t Say LGBTQ by abandoning protections for LGBTQ students and families. Judge Windsor made clear that nothing in the law requires school districts to back away from protections and programs for LGBTQ students, and we call on districts that have done so to reverse course immediately. Judge Winsor stated that “nothing in the law—much less in its conceivable enforcement—could 'empower' other students to do anything they could not otherwise do with respect to treating LGBTQ students differently." He spells out that the law should not be used to silence students from talking about their LGBTQ parents, to silence LGBTQ teachers from acknowledging their partners, or to exclude LGBTQ parents from school events.  And that it should not be used to treat LGBTQ students differently, to fail to step in when they face bullying, or to remove signs of support like rainbow flags from classrooms. 

These impacts, he argues, are a direct result of school boards, the bodies responsible for determining how the law is enforced, overreaching in their implementation of the law. Judge Winsor acknowledges what has been clear from the beginning: that in DeSantis’s Florida, the political climate is so toxic for LGBTQ people that school districts are actively abdicating their responsibilities, choosing instead to capitulate to extremists and the toxic anti-LGBTQ brew they have created rather than adhere to the letter of the law.

This fight is not done. We will continue to expose the harm that Florida's Don't Say LGBTQ law is inflicting on children and families.  A court decision doesn't negate that harm. This ruling focuses on whether the parents, students or organization were the right plaintiffs to bring it forward. Equality Florida made a commitment to fight to ensure every student is protected and every family is respected, and that's exactly what we intend to do through any means necessary.

The plaintiffs are represented by Kaplan Hecker & Fink, LLP; the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Elizabeth F. Schwartz, PA.

Full opinion by the judge here.


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