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AG Nessel Joins New Coalition Challenging Florida's "Don't Say Gay" Law, Which Bans Discussion of LGBTQ Issues in Schools

News Release from Michigan Attorney General, January 04, 2023

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general (including Hawaii) in again opposing Florida’s discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prevents classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, posing a serious threat to LGBTQ+ students who are particularly vulnerable to the harms caused by discrimination. 

"One of the most important issues surrounding the education of our kids is making them feel seen, protected, and appreciated," Nessel said. "That was not the motivation of this law. The intent and effect of this law is to exacerbate any feelings of otherness that LGBTQ+ students and LGBTQ+ teachers may hold, as well as isolate them from their peers. If the goal of this law had been to limit inappropriate content in classrooms, its language is much too broad and vague to do so in any meaningful way. I proudly stand with my colleagues in opposing this exclusionary law and I will do everything in my power to ensure that similar legislation does not come to Michigan."

This brief challenges Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act,” otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which outlaws “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through Grade 3 entirely. The law also requires that the state education agency write new classroom instructions for standards that must be followed by Grades 4 through 12. But the law does not define many of its key terms, like “classroom instruction,” so Florida teachers are already censoring themselves out of fear of the law. Indeed, the law allows a parent to bring a civil claim against a school district to enforce its vague prohibitions. 

A group of students, parents, teachers, and organizations challenged the Act in federal district court, seeking to prevent its enforcement and alleging that it violates, among other things, the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment. 

Today’s brief makes two main points: 

  • Florida’s law is unconstitutional. Although Florida claims the Act is intended to protect children and preserve parental choice, the amici states have curricula in place that allow for age-appropriate discussion of LGBTQ+ issues while respecting parental views on the topic.  
  • The law is causing significant harms to students, parents, teachers, and other states. Non-inclusive educational environments have severe negative health impacts on LGBTQ+ students, resulting in increased rates of mental health disorders and suicide attempts. These harms extend to youth not just in Florida, but throughout the country.

Read the full 12-22-22 brief here

AG Nessel is joining the amicus brief with attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.

###

WIKI: The Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly known as the Don't Say Gay act or as the Don't Say Gay or Trans act, is a Florida state law passed in 2022 that enacts several new statutes for public schools in Florida, which prohibits public schools from having "classroom discussion"[a] or giving "classroom instruction"[b] on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through to third grade or in any manner deemed to be against state standards in all grades; prohibits public schools from adopting procedures or student support forms that maintain the confidentially of a disclosure by a student, including the confidentially of a disclose by a student of their sexual orientation or gender identity, from parents; and prohibits public schools from preventing parents from accessing the education and health records of students.

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