AG Racine Leads New Coalition Challenging Florida's "Don't Say Gay" Law, Which Bans Discussion of LGBTQ Issues in Schools

18 Attorneys General Argue that Extreme Bill Lacks Legitimate Educational Purpose, Would Harm Students, Parents, and Teachers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today led a coalition of 18 Attorneys General in again opposing Florida’s discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prevents classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, posing a serious threat to LGBTQ+ students who are particularly vulnerable to the harms caused by discrimination. 

“My office has a strong track record of fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in the District and across the country to make sure that everyone can simply be who they are and love who they love,” said AG Racine. “Florida’s law offers no benefit to anyone and in fact puts children and families in harm’s way. We will continue to use all of our authority to help strike down this law and any other hateful, discriminatory policies that threaten people’s fundamental freedoms.” 

This brief challenges Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act,” otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, 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. 

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. 

Today’s brief makes two main points: 

  • Florida’s law is unconstitutional. 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. 

Read the full brief here

AG Racine is leading the amicus brief with New Jersey AG Matthew J. Platkin. They are joined by Attorneys General from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. 

The District’s Human Rights Act (HRA) is one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country. It broadly outlaws discrimination based on traits including race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and disability. In response to evidence of ongoing bias and discrimination in the District, OAG launched its Civil Rights Section in April 2019. The section, composed of four attorneys and one investigator, protects the civil rights of District residents by bringing lawsuits to challenge discrimination, advocating for legislation to strengthen antidiscrimination laws, and engaging in educational community outreach so that residents know their rights. The team focuses on combatting large-scale discriminatory practices in order to serve as a significant deterrent to illegal discriminatory conduct. 

To increase enforcement of District anti-discrimination laws, AG Racine championed “The Hate Crime and Civil Enforcement Clarification Amendment Act of 2019,” which empowers OAG to hold perpetrators accountable for their bias-motivated crimes. These provisions were ultimately enacted as part of the Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020. You can read more about these efforts here

As President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), AG Racine chose to focus his presidential initiative on countering hate. Read more about this year-long trial against hate, The People v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity, in this Medium post. 

Report Discrimination 
If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, you may report it to OAG by: 

The District’s Office of Human Rights (OHR) is the primary District agency that investigates individual complaints of discrimination. You can also file a complaint with OHR by calling (202) 727-4559 or filling out their online complaint form