Yesterday, a U.S. District Court refused to halt Florida’s enacted House Bill 1557, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law, and dismissed the case altogether, but is allowing the plaintiffs an opportunity to file an amended complaint by November 3. The law 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.
The preliminary injunction sought by clients of Lambda Legal, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Southern Legal Counsel (SLC) and Baker McKenzie would have prevented school districts from implementing the law, which took effect on July 1, 2022, while the law is challenged in court.
“The court’s decision is wrong on the law and disrespectful to LGBTQ+ families and students. HB 1557 suppresses wholesale the speech and identities of LGBTQ+ students and their families,” said Kell Olson, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. “It sends a message of shame and stigma that has no place in schools and puts LGBTQ+ students and families at risk. The students and families at the heart of this case have experienced more bullying in the months since the law went into effect than ever before in their lives, but the court dismissed their experiences of bullying as ‘a fact of life.’ The court’s decision defies decades of precedent establishing schools’ constitutional obligations to protect student speech, and to protect students from targeted bullying and harassment based on who they are.”
“Our plaintiffs, and other LGBTQ+ students and families throughout Florida, have experienced real harms caused by this law, which were not acknowledged by the Court,” said Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel. “This fight is not over – it has just begun. Florida’s LGBTQ+ students and families deserve better, and we will press forward to protect their rights.”
“The court’s order ignores the real harm this unconstitutional law causes to our plaintiffs, and LGBTQ+ students and families across Florida, every day that it remains in effect,” said Scott McCoy, Interim Deputy Legal Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The callous disregard towards increased bullying based on gender identity and the removal of anti-bullying guidance shows exactly why we must keep fighting.”
“We very much look forward to continuing the fight against this unjust and dangerous law,” said Angela Vigil, Partner and Executive Director of Pro Bono Practice at Baker McKenzie LLP. “We plan to show the court and the state the harm caused to children and families by this law is destructive in so many ways for education, community, families and, most importantly, children.”
Read more about the case here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/cousins-et-al-v-the-school-board-of-orange-county-et-al
More about the clients is available here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/cousins_fl_20220725_meet-the-plaintiffs-cousins-v-the-school-board-of-orange-county