Mar 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Florida settles lawsuit over "Don't Say Gay"

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community attend the "Say Gay Anyway" rally in Miami Beach, Florida on March 13, 2022.

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community attend the "Say Gay Anyway" rally in Miami Beach, Florida on March 13, 2022. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Florida education officials and civil rights attorneys agreed to a settlement Monday, ending a yearslong legal battle over the controversial state law critics dubbed "Don't Say Gay."

Why it matters: The law, which banned classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms, will remain intact —albeit with clearer guidelines as to how it can be applied.

Catch up quick: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the measure into law two years ago and drew widespread criticism from Disney, LGBTQ+ activists and the Biden White House, among others.

  • DeSantis had accused the law's critics of supporting "sexualizing kids in kindergarten" while dismissing the notion that it amounted to the erasure of LGBTQ+ people.
  • The state expanded the restriction through high school a year later.

State of play: The settlement clarifies that the law doesn't bar classroom references to LGBTQ+ people, families, or issues, including in literature, discussions with students and academic work.

  • It requires neutrality in the law's application, in that classroom instruction on all types of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited, whether heterosexuality or homosexuality.
  • It also clarifies that the law doesn't apply to library books, extracurricular activities or "safe space" stickers.

What they're saying: "Simply put, the State of Florida has now made it clear that LGBTQ+ kids, parents, and teachers in Florida can, in fact, say that they are gay," attorney Roberta Kaplan told Axios on Monday.

  • "This settlement is a giant step toward repairing the immense damage these laws ... inflicted on our families, our schools, and our state," Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith said in a statement Monday.

The other side: DeSantis' camp called the settlement a "major win," as the law wasn't struck down and will remain in effect.

  • "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," general counsel Ryan Newman said in a statement Monday.

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