Plaintiffs, State of Florida agree to dismiss Parental Rights in Education lawsuit

by | Mar 11, 2024

The State of Florida reached a settlement to dismiss a lawsuit against the Parental Rights in Education bill, allowing the contested legislation, dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by opponents, to remain in effect.

The Executive Office of Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Monday that the State of Florida has reached a settlement to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to invalidate the Parental Rights in Education bill.

The lawsuit, first filed in March 2022 by plaintiffs including Equality Florida, Family Equality, and a series of individuals, challenged the constitutionality of the ratified legislation, contending that it contravened protections provided by the First Amendment. The U.S. District Court for Northern District of Florida dismissed a First Amended Complaint in September 2022 on grounds that the court sided the state’s argument that the asserted future actions brought forth by the Plaintiffs did not involve classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The challenged legislation, branded the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by critics, sparked national attention and outrage among many on the political left, becoming one of the biggest ‘culture war’ issues in Florida’s 2022 Legislative Session.

“We fought hard to ensure this law couldn’t be maligned in court, as it was in the public arena by the media and large corporate actors,” said General Counsel Ryan Newman in a prepared statement. “We are victorious, and Florida’s classrooms will remain a safe place under the Parental Rights in Education Act.”

With the settlement, the law — expanded last year to encompass all public school grade levels — will remain in effect. In its purview, the legislation prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity, mandates that parents are notified about healthcare services offered at the school, with the right to decline, and requires that whenever a questionnaire or health screening is given to K–3 students, parents receive it first and provide permission for the school to administer the questionnaire or health screening to their child.

“Their judicial activism has failed,” a DeSantis press release stated. “Today’s mutually agreed settlement ensures that the law will remain in effect and it is expected that the case will be dismissed by the Court imminently.”

Equality Florida, meanwhile, is claiming victory of their own with the settlement, asserting that it “successfully dismantles the most harmful impacts of the law, ensuring it cannot be wielded as a tool of discrimination against LGBTQ+ students, educators, and families.”

A release sent to The Capitolist outlines that the settlement includes a stipulation that requires the Florida Department of Education to dispatch a memorandum to school districts across Florida, clarifying that the statute does not impose a total prohibition on discussions related to LGBTQ+ subjects and personalities in classrooms, further mandating a clarified neutral stance on classroom conversations concerning sexuality and gender identity.

“This victory is more than a legal triumph; it’s a beacon of hope and a reminder of the power of collective action,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s Executive Director. “It demonstrates our ongoing commitment to a Florida where everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can live authentically and without fear.”

Initial passage of the Parental Rights bill saw national outcry, including a collection of Attorneys General from 15 states and Washington D.C. who filed an amicus brief in support of a separate, though ultimately dismissed, Equality Florida v. Florida State Board of Education case.

The legal brief isolated the State of Florida, asserting that the policy “stands alone” in its “censoring of instruction relating to LGBTQ problems and in its imposition of legal responsibility on school districts that do not suppress LGBTQ subjects.”


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