Attorney General Tong Joins Coalition Challenging Florida "Don't Say Gay" Law
16 Attorneys General Argue that Extreme Bill Lacks Legitimate Educational Purpose, Would Harm Students, Parents, and Teachers
(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong today joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general filing an amicus brief opposing Florida’s discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law bans 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.
“Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law is dangerous and discriminatory, censoring teachers and denying kids access to age-appropriate information about sexual orientation and identity. LGBTQ+ students already have higher rates of suicide and mental health challenges. All kids need to feel included and supported, not bullied by politicians for partisan gain,” said Attorney General Tong.
This brief challenges Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act,” otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, 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 extreme. Although Florida claims the Act is intended to protect children and preserve parental choice, states already 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.
Attorney General Tong is joining the amicus brief alongside Attorneys General from New Jersey, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, and Oregon.