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Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws undermine protections for LGBTQ teachers, students

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Formally entitled the “Parental Rights in Education Act,” Florida House Bill 1557 amends Florida Statute § 1001.42 to add a new subsection 8(c)(3), which provides: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” In May of this year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1069, which has been viewed as expanding H.B.

1557 by requiring that sex education classes in Florida teach that “sex is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth,” and that reproductive gender roles are “binary, stable, and unchangeable.” Among other things, the new bill also broadens the ban on classroom discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation so that it covers pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and prevents employees from using pronouns other than those that correspond with sex assigned at birth.

Critics of these laws have labeled H.B. 1557 and H.B. 1069 “Don’t Say Gay” laws. We share these critics’ concerns. Below, we highlight the potential of these laws to undermine anti-discrimination protections for teachers and students at public educational institutions in Florida and summarize litigation challenging these laws.

I. The Legal Landscape for LGBTQ Anti-Discrimination Protections in Florida On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Bostock v.

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