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AG Nessel Joins Coalition Challenging Florida "Don't Say Gay" Law Which Bans Discussion of LGBTQ Issues in Schools

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 16 Attorneys General in an amicus brief opposing Florida’s recently enacted and discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prevents classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, and poses a serious threat to LGBTQ+ students who are particularly vulnerable to the harms caused by discrimination.

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.

"This bill is an affront not just to educators, but also to LGBTQ+ students, especially those who may already be experiencing the stigmatizing effect of their identity at school," Nessel said. "This bill is not motivated by the desire to limit inappropriate content in classrooms. It is meant to have a chilling effect on how educators do their jobs and may also violate the First Amendment rights of students and teachers alike. I gladly join my colleagues on this brief and hope it discourages other states, including Michigan, from considering similar legislation."

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.

 The brief makes two main points:

  • Florida’s law is extreme. Although Florida claims the Act is intended to protect children and preserve parental choice, the attorneys general 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.

A copy of the brief is here.

AG Nessel is joining the amicus brief alongside Attorneys General from New Jersey, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, and Oregon.

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