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Verdicts & Settlements

Florida Settles “Don’t Say Gay” Lawsuit with Civil Rights Attorneys

— March 12, 2024

The terms of the settlement will require the Florida Department of Education to better clarify its stance on the Parental Rights in Education Act, while also ensuring that prohibitions on the discussion of gender identity and sexuality cannot be used to exclusively target LGBT students.

Florida has reached a settlement with civil rights attorneys, who had filed a lawsuit challenging the enactment of controversial legislation prohibiting teachers and education officials from discussing many topics related to gender identity and sexuality.

According to CNN, the terms of the settlement require the state to better clarify what educators can and cannot teach. The Florida Department of Education, for instance, will be required to send clear guidance to every school district—guidance that specifies that teachers cannot be penalized for simply noting the existence of LGBT people, and which will allow most anti-bullying rules to remain in place.

Furthermore, the settlement also provides guarantees that legislation will not be selectively enforced: if it curtails conversations about homosexuality and bisexuality, then it must curtail conversations about heterosexuality, too.

Outside of the classroom, libraries may retain books covering a range of LGBT-related topics, so long as the books are not used as teaching materials.

Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the agreement is meant to establish a baseline of normalcy that should be acceptable to all affected parties.

“What this settlement does—is it re-establishes the fundamental principle, that I hope all Americans agree with, which is every kid in the country is entitled to an education at a public school where they feel safe, their dignity is respected and where their families and parents are welcomed,” Kaplan said in an interview, excerpts from which were shared by CNN. “This shouldn’t be a controversial thing.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also touted the settlement as a “major win,” observing that its terms allow the Parental Rights in Education Act to remain in effect.

Former Congressman Ron DeSantis in 2017. Image via Flickr/user:Gage Skidmore (CCA-BY-2.0).

“Today’s mutually agreed settlement ensures that the law will remain in effect and it is expected that the case will be dismissed by the Court imminently,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Both DeSantis and the governor’s general counsel, Ryan Newman, emphasized their belief that—settlement aside—“activists and extremists” had largely failed in their attempt to “smear and stop” the law before it could be enforced.

“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,” Newman said. “We are victorious, and Florida’s classrooms will remain a safe place under the Parental Rights in Education Act.”

Several of the individual plaintiffs involved in the claim suggested they were, at the very least, relieved that an agreement had been reached.

“It’s going to make a huge difference because the law was so vague that people stayed away from everything,” said plaintiff Cecile Houry. “Here, it really defines what is allowed, and everything else that is allowed. It’s going to change students’ experience.”

“My kid,” Houry said, “is at an age that she doesn’t stop talking about everything [sic]. I feel better that I don’t have to worry about everything that comes out of her mouth.”

Amy Morrison, Houry’s partner and co-plaintiff, said that she hopes Floridians do not get the wrong impression about the agreement.

“The settlement is not settling,” Morrison said, admitting that some people may not change their attitudes toward LGBT students and education. “There are going to be remnants where it doesn’t matter what the law says or what the settlement says.”

“But the law matters,” she said, “and now we have the law.”


Florida settles lawsuit over LGBT education bill

Florida settles lawsuit over parental rights law, will clarify vague wording

Florida teachers can discuss sexuality and gender identity in some classroom settings, legal settlement clarifies

Gender ID, sexual orientation can be talked about in Florida classrooms after lawsuit settlement

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