By Leslie Acevedo
OAKLAND, CA – Just two days before Christmas, California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a coalition of 18 state attorneys general in an amicus brief “Equality Florida v. Florida State Board of Education,” arguing against Florida’s extreme “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The coalition urges the “U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to allow the plaintiffs’ amended complaint challenging the law to move forward and highlights the states’ efforts to combat discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans nationwide.”
Attorney General Bonta said, “Our children deserve to grow up in a world where they are accepted for who they are…California is pushing back, not backing down, and [standing] with our LGTBQ+ community.”
Bonta added, “Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, is an attempt to silence, erase LGTBQ+ people as well as intimidate LGBTQ+ students, teachers, and families.”
Florida’s House Bill 1557 (HB 1557), the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law signed into law on March 22, 2022, “Bans class flatly bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and prohibits such instruction for all other students unless it is in accordance with state standards,” according to the amicus brief.
Days after the law was enacted, a Florida coalition filed a lawsuit challenging the law. Plaintiffs filed an “[a]mended complaint aimed at further identifying HB 1557’s concrete harms after the court initially ruled to dismiss the case on standing.”
The attorneys general brief argues Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law is an extreme outlier.
Bonta and the others who signed onto the brief charge HB 1557’s impact will “Stigmatize and harm LGBTQ+ youth in Florida and across the country, resulting in adverse mental health and learning outcomes that will likely extend well beyond Florida’s borders.”
They add, HB 1557 permits “parents to haul schools into court over even minor instructional choices and imposes legal liability on school districts that do not censor LGBTQ+ issues in the classroom.”
The coalition’s amicus brief maintains HB 1557 “Stigmatizes youth in Florida and those harms extend to youth in other states, (and) educational decisions that stigmatize LGBTQ+ youth directly harm mental health and educational outcomes. If allowed to remain in effect, HB 1557 will increase anti-LGBTQ+ bias. Florida stands apart from other states by subjecting school communities to costly litigation for legitimate instructional decisions.
“The experience of other states undermines Florida’s contention that its extreme legislation has a legitimate pedagogical purpose, and The court should reject Florida’s efforts to dismiss the current challenge to HB 1557.”
Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington in filing the amicus brief.