State of Florida Comes to a Settlement Over “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

A settlement has been reached between a group of plaintiffs and the State of Florida in a lawsuit regarding Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill law — also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics. The law was signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis two years ago and has since sparked fear and confusion among students, parents, and teachers as the bill initially barred classroom discussion about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through eighth grade in Florida public schools. 

In those two years, travel advisories for Florida were issued by organizations who saw the bill as diminishing the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color. Many people were unsure if they could identify themselves as openly a part of the LGBTQ+ community without being criminalized for it. 

The settlement clears up some of the ambiguity surrounding the law, as it finds that students and teachers are able to speak freely about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom as long as it is not part of the class instructions and lesson plan. LGBTQ+ references are not prohibited in classroom discussions, books, or in students’ academic work. References to teacher’s spouses or partners, or references to the LGBTQ+ community in other situations that are not related to class instruction are also allowed. Student-run LGBTQ+ organizations are still allowed as well as safe spaces for students. 

This development was needed in order to ensure the safety of the queer community. Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation such as the “Don’t Say Gay” law has major impacts on mental health for both LGBTQ+ students and parents. A majority of LGBTQ+ youth in American schools have reported being bullied in person or electronically in the past year according to the Trevor Project. In 2023 alone, there were a record number of anti-LGBTQ laws introduced, adding up to 510 — 16% of those bills passed. The others were defeated by LGBTQ+ advocates and allies. We will continue to combat these harmful laws because America needs more education on gender identity and sexual orientation, not less.

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