OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general in an amicus brief in Equality Florida v. Florida State Board of Education in opposition to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. Florida’s new law seeks to erase the existence of LGBTQ+ communities from classrooms in the state by censoring or outright prohibiting discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the coalition urges the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to allow the plaintiffs’ challenge to the law to move forward and highlights the states’ interest in standing up for the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans nationwide.
“Make no mistake: DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” law is an unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ+ students from Florida’s public schools,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Rather than creating a nurturing, safe environment, Florida’s law simply punishes children and their families for who they are. In California, we’re not going to ignore discrimination and attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. We urge the court to affirm the rights and dignities of all of our children and allow this lawsuit to move forward.”
Signed into law on March 28, 2022, Florida’s House Bill 1557 (HB 1557) — the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law — 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 Florida’s yet-to-be-defined state standards. In addition, the law is an outlier in that, rather than leaving the majority of educational decisions to schools and teachers, HB 1557 allows parents to haul schools into court over even minor instructional choices and imposes legal liability on school districts that do not adequately censor LGBTQ+ issues in the classroom to the state’s satisfaction. Florida’s law is in direct contrast to protections in place in California aimed at fostering LGBTQ+ inclusivity in schools, including the Fair Education Act, the California Healthy Youth Act, and the School Success and Opportunity Act. Fundamentally, HB 1557 largely only serves to stigmatize and harm LGBTQ+ youth in Florida and across the country. Numerous studies show that a failure to provide LGBTQ-inclusive classroom instruction adversely affects students’ mental health and learning outcomes, and that it results in increased anti-LGBTQ+ bias. As noted in the amicus brief, these types of harms will directly arise as a result of HB 1557 and the law’s negative consequences will likely extend well beyond Florida’s borders.
In filing the amicus brief, 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, and Oregon.
A copy of the amicus brief is available here.