Ron DeSantis' 'Don't Say Gay' Law to Face First Challenge In Court

Just four days after its signing, a lawsuit has already been filed challenging Florida's controversial so-called "Don't Say Gay" law.

The suit was filed Thursday morning in federal court by several LGBTQ+ advocate groups as well as students and families in the state of Florida, according to The Hill. It's the first lawsuit against what's formally called the Parents Right in Education Bill, which Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law on Monday.

The law states that it seeks to "reinforce a parent's fundamental right to make decisions regarding the care and upbringing of his or her child in the public school setting."

Also, the newly-signed law says that no discussion on "sexual orientation or gender identity" from either school personnel or other third parties may take place in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

The suit, The Hill reports, says the law violates both the First and the Fourteenth Amendment rights of students, teachers and parents in the Sunshine State. Additionally, the suit states that the "Don't Say Gay" law goes against Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools.

Florida  Gov. Ron DeSantis
A lawsuit was filed Thursday morning challenging the newly-signed so-called "Don't Say Gay" law. Photo of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at CPAC in Orlando, Florida, on February 24, 2022. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As far as the First Amendment goes, the suit states, Axios reports, that "in keeping with this longstanding commitment to 'academic freedom'...the First Amendment protects students' 'right to receive information and ideas.'"

The suit goes on to say that the law "offends principles of free speech and equal protection" as it seeks to "censor discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity," according to Axios.

The lawsuit also mentions that Florida's new law creates confusion and worry for both parents and LGBTQ students.

"LGBTQ students and parents are unsure about whether they can express or discuss their identities, and they worry about detention or other possible discipline or exclusion that may result if they do," the lawsuit states, according to The Hill.

In addition to referring to the law as unconstitutional, the suit also calls it "cruel" and says that one of the law's intentions is "to isolate, stigmatize, and erase LGBTQ families," WPLG said.

Those who filed the suit aren't the only people voicing their displeasure with the new law.

Two organizations—FOLX Health and Southern Progress PAC—recently put up billboards in Florida and other places with what they consider "anti-LGBTQ laws" with such messages as "Say Gay" and "Protect Trans Youth."

On Monday, after the bill was signed into law, a spokesperson for the Walt Disney Company released a statement that stated the company would work toward repealing the law, which "should have never passed and should never have been signed into law."

During a press conference on Tuesday, DeSantis mentioned that the company had "crossed a line" after the company announced a plan intended to repeal the Florida law.

"For Disney to come out and put a statement and say that the bill should have never passed and that they are going to actively work to repeal it, I think one was fundamentally dishonest, but two, I think that crossed the line," DeSantis said.

And the law did, in fact, receive support. The clash between sides has taken over Twitter throughout the week.

"CAN ANY DEMOCRAT ACTUALLY READ??!!" tweeted Lavern Spicer, a Republican who ran for Congress in Florida last year.

"Read the bill," Rebecca Keltie, a Republican congressional candidate, wrote on Twitter. "It doesn't ban anything. Not even student conversations."

"Fun Fact: NOBODY calling it the 'don't say gay bill' has READ the bill," tweeted Jimmy Failla, host of the Fox Across America radio show.

Governor Ron DeSantis' press office previously forwarded a statement to Newsweek, saying, "The bill is about parental rights, and parents have the right to make education and health decisions for their kids."

In response to Newsweek, the communications director for DeSantis' Office called the lawsuit a "political Hail-Mary to undermine parental rights in Florida" and that "many of the parties to this suit are advocacy groups with publicly stated political agendas."

The statement went on to point out "several erroneous claims" in the suit such as "a person has a right to instruct another person's child about sexuality and gender," "a state employee, school board administrator, or teacher has a right to craft and utilize their own unique curriculum in the kindergarten or elementary school classroom" as well as the "charge that this law violates the first amendment."

The statement adds that the law "does not chill speech—instead it returns speech on these topics to the parents." The law, the governor's office, says "does not prohibit student-prompted discussion in the classroom" and does not keep teachers from "having opinions, lifestyles, or advocacy in their personal right on their own time."

It goes on to mention that Disney "did not directly join the suit as a named Plaintiff, given their recent activism."

The statement concludes by saying the suit is a "calculated, politically motivated, virtue-signaling lawsuit" which is "meritless" and that they intend to "defend the legality of parents to protect their young children from sexual content in Florida public schools."

Update: 03/31/22 3:33 p.m. ET: This article was updated with the statement from the office of Ron DeSantis regarding the lawsuit.