On July 25, 2022, Lambda Legal, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Southern Legal Counsel, and private counsel Baker McKenzie filed a federal lawsuit challenging Florida enacted House Bill 1557, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The lawsuit argues that the law, which bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and restricts such discussions for students through grade 12 based on undefined standards of appropriateness, effectively silences and erases LGBTQ+ students and families. The law demands that school districts implement its terms and empowers any parent who believes a school is violating the law to sue the school district.
Meet the families and individuals who made this case possible.
Jennifer and Matt Cousins are the parents of four children: 14-year-old N.C., 12-year-old S.C., 8-year-old M.C. and 6-year-old P.C. The family lives in Orlando, Florida. Jen and Matt’s 12-year-old, S.C., came out as non-binary last year and uses they/them pronouns. The family supports S.C. completely and loves that S.C. is comfortable in their own skin and confident in who they are. This law paints their family as abnormal and shames, chills, and silences the family from explaining S.C.’s non-binary identity to friends, classmates, teachers and others. This law has caused the removal of books with LGBTQ+ content from their children’s schools, preventing them from accessing literature that depicts their family structure. The family worries that there may no longer be the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club at school when they return in the fall. The GSA has been a lifeline for S.C. and provides a sense of belonging, community and acceptance for S.C. and other LGBTQ+ students.
David Dinan and Vikranth (“Vik”) Gongidi and their children, 9-year-old K.R.D. and 8-year-old R.R.D., reside in Vero Beach, Florida. David has enjoyed being a very involved parent on the PTA at school events and field trips and has felt comfortable referencing his family in the past. This vague law has already caused him to self-censor any mention of Vik and their family structure for fear of inviting questions from classmates or a teacher struggling to explain. This law precludes their teachers from answering questions by classmates about their family’s structure, explaining that they have two dads, that their dads are gay and comprise a married same-sex couple, and that their family is as worthy as any other family. Additionally, the law prevents teachers from protecting K.R.D. and R.R.D. from feeling alone, ashamed, exposed, and bullied by those who may ridicule and harass them for having gay dads.
Will Larkins is a rising senior at Winter Park High School in Orange County, Florida. Will identifies as gay and non-binary and is the president and co-founder of their school’s Queer Student Union (QSU). Will understands that for many, school is the only place where many LGBTQ+ students can be themselves and live without fear. Days after the law was passed, Will’s Stonewall presentation in their history class caused school officials to place them under investigation and moved to another history class. Students in QSU are worried about current policies that allow them to use their affirmed name and pronouns at school without being outed to their parents and whether those affirming policies will continue to exist. The fear of bullying and discrimination for being queer is a constant.