Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law facing lawsuit claiming it ‘attacks’ family

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A group of Florida families represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Lambda Legal, Southern Legal Counsel, and private counsel Baker McKenzie filed a lawsuit to block the Parental Rights in Education bill. 

The bill, which bans discussions of sexuality and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, has been labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. 

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The lawsuit argues the bill effectively silences LGBTQ+ students and families. 

“Plaintiffs Jen and Matt Cousins want their children, including their non- binary seventh grader Plaintiff S.C., to feel safe and supported at school. HB 1557 attacks not only S.C. but the entire Cousins family,” the lawsuit reads.

“This law will prevent our two youngest children, rising first and third graders, from discussing their older non-binary sibling in the classroom for fear of their teacher or their school getting in trouble,” plaintiffs Jennifer and Matthew Cousins said. “The law also robs them of the opportunity of discussing their family like other non-LGBTQ+ children. It’s heartbreaking to know that my children may be bullied because this law paints our family as shameful. Every child deserves the right to celebrate their family in the form that it exists.”

Students wearing masks board a school bus outside New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math school, in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York.

Students wearing masks board a school bus outside New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math school, in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York.
(AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)

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LGBT groups Equality Florida and Family Equality have also sued, arguing the law violates the constitutionally protected rights of free speech, equal protection and due process of students and families. 

The Parental Rights in Education bill earned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., some high profile critics. It was mocked by this year’s Oscars hosts, and Disney CEO Bob Chapek released a statement that the measure “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.” Following Disney’s public denunciation, DeSantis signed a measure that stripped the company of its long held self governing power in the state. 

Mickey Mouse waves to fans during a parade at Walt Disney World Resort on March 03, 2022, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Mickey Mouse waves to fans during a parade at Walt Disney World Resort on March 03, 2022, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images for Disney Dreamers Academy)

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President Biden also took sides, calling the parents bill “hateful” in a tweet.

“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” he wrote in February. “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”

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DeSantis has defended the legislation in press conferences, hitting back at local reporters who have used the “Don’t Say Gay” label in their questions.

“Does it say that in the bill?” DeSantis asked a WFLA reporter who used the misnomer, adding that “it’s why people don’t trust people like you because you peddle false narratives.”

The governor said the legislation is intended to give parents insight into the classroom.

“And we’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum,” he added.

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