Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law upheld after settlement in federal court

The state of Florida settled a multi-year suit Monday against the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which limits how LGBTQ topics can be discussed and presented in schools.

The settlement agreement clarifies language of the 2022 Parental Rights in Education Act, keeping it in place but toning down what LGBTQ advocates in the state warned could illegally limit their rights.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R-Fla.) office celebrated the settlement as a victory for his policy agenda.

“We fought hard to ensure this law couldn’t be maligned in court, as it was in the public arena by the media and large corporate actors,” state general counsel Ryan Newman said in a statement. “We are victorious, and Florida’s classrooms will remain a safe place under the Parental Rights in Education Act.”

The law prevented educators from discussing LGBTQ topics with elementary students and was later expanded to high school students, raising concerns over censorship and civil liberties due to its vague language. Multiple LGBTQ rights groups sued the state over the bill when it was signed into law.

The law sparked widespread backlash for DeSantis, including starting a feud with Disney that ultimately led to a legal fight over regulation.

A federal court ruled last month that the remaining two plaintiffs did not have the standing to continue to sue, leading to a settlement Monday that fixes the concerns about vague language.

The Florida Department of Education agreed to send a memo to Florida school districts specifying that the law does not completely ban all discussion of LGBTQ topics and figures in classrooms, and requires strict neutrality on the discussion of sexuality and gender identity.

Plaintiff Cecile Houry told the Tampa Bay Times the settlement avoids another multi-year appeals process and improves the state of the law.

“It’s going to make a huge difference because the law was so vague that people stayed away from everything,” Houry said. “Here it really defines what is not allowed, and everything else that is allowed. It’s going to change students’ experience.”

She said the settlement’s changes relieve fears for her 7-year-old daughter.

“My kid is at an age that she doesn’t stop talking about everything,” she said. “I feel better that I don’t have to worry about everything that comes out of her mouth.”

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