Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis gleefully signed anti-queer legislation into law this March. The Florida conservative surrounded himself with children while signing the hateful HB 1577 into law and blabbering about “parental rights” as an excuse to essentially silence and exclude LGBTQ+ identities and topics from public school classrooms in the state. This legislation has gotten a lot of national media attention, especially since Disney has gotten involved—at first CEO Bob Chapek did too little, causing Disney workers to speak out and protest, and since DeSantis signed the legislation into law, Disney has vowed to work to get it repealed.
But it’s not only a big corporation fighting the good fight—it’s Florida parents, children, and teachers, too. For example, the first lawsuit has been filed against the state of Florida (including the Florida State Board of Education, its commissioner, and several school boards) over the law, backed by Equality Florida and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), as reported by CNN. The suit was filed in a federal court in Tallahassee, Florida, and argues that the law is unconstitutional in its attempt to effectively erase LGBTQ+ youth and families from public schools. Specifically, the suit alleges the law violates the First and 14th Amendments in addition to Title IX.
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As of now, the law is set to go into effect on July 1. Plaintiffs include Lourdes Casares and Kimberly Feinberg, who are the same-sex parents of a child whose name, gender identity, and age they are choosing not to reveal for privacy reasons.
The couple spoke to TIME in an interview, with Feinberg saying the law is “billed as a parental rights legislation [but] it’s not for all parents equally.” Casares added to the outlet that they effectively lose their ability to have their child included the same way they did before.
Also on the lawsuit are a public school middle school English teacher, two openly LGBTQ+ high schoolers, an openly trans fifth-grader, two same-sex couples who parent young children, and the parent of a student who does not align with any “specific” gender identity.
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One of the high schoolers, plaintiff Zander Moricz, shared a statement via an NCLR press release. The 18-year-old senior said their school had previously been a “safe environment” where they felt comfortable expressing their identity.
“I would not have been able to learn and thrive without that support,” they continued. “My teachers have already told me that they will no longer be able to have some of the classroom discussions that helped me feel accepted in school.”
According to the lawsuit, the law is an “unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence and erase LGBTQ people in Florida's public schools." The suit says the state is trying to erase LGBTQ+ youth by imposing a “sweeping, vague ban covering any instruction on 'sexual orientation and gender identity,' and by constructing a diffuse enforcement scheme designed to maximize the chilling effect of this prohibition.”
"This effort to control young minds through state censorship -- and to demean LGBTQ lives by denying their reality -- is a grave abuse of power,” the complaint reads in part. “The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that LGBTQ people and families are at home in our constitutional order.” It goes on to say the state has “no right” to make LGBTQ+ people outcasts or “treat their allies as outlaws,” which is a reference to potential lawsuits against supportive school districts.
DeSantis should be ashamed of himself, but we know he isn’t. This law is scary and disturbing, and adding to our real sense of urgency is the reality that this law doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Republicans have been pushing anti-trans legislation hard in terms of sports, bathrooms, and health care, and while efforts to exclude and discriminate against trans folks are violent already, the hate doesn’t end there.
Queer rights are not safe if anyone’s rights are not safe, and that extends to cisgender queer folks who might have thought our rights were secure thanks to marriage equality. It’s simply not the case, and whether it’s about health care, book bans, or wedding cakes, our rights aren’t actually protected until everyone has the same respect and dignity. We’ve got to fight every single action and we’ve got to do it with purpose.
Sign the petition: Demand the Senate pass the Equality Act and protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination.