Florida’s ORLANDO (AP) — A federal judge has, for the second time in less than a month, thrown out a lawsuit against Florida’s “don’t say gay” law, which says that schools can’t teach about gender identity and sexual orientation.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Wendy Berger in Orlando threw out a complaint filed by LGBTQ students, parents, and family members, as well as several civil rights groups. She also turned down their request for a preliminary injunction to stop the law from going into effect. The plaintiffs had until November 3 (at the judge’s choice) to file a new complaint.
The law, which says that kids in kindergarten through third grade can’t learn about sexual orientation or gender identity or anything else that isn’t age-appropriate, was challenged in an Orlando court case.
Several school boards in central Florida were named as defendants because they were in charge of carrying out the law. According to the lawsuit, the law violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights by making it harder for them to talk about their LGBTQ families in the school. The judge tried to stop it.
Berger, who was chosen by former President Donald Trump, said, “Plaintiffs have not directed this Court to any fact that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the law prohibits students from talking about their families.
vacations at school or even on a school assignment, or that it would prevent a parent from wearing a “pride” t-shirt to a school event or talking about their family structure in front of other people.”
The judge felt sorry for the parents of a nonbinary middle school student who was suing because they were afraid that the law would make the bullying worse.
Berger went on to say, “However, it is just a fact of life that many middle school students will have to deal with harsh criticism and judgment from their peers.”
The judge said, “In reality, middle school students bully and insult their classmates for many reasons, many of which are wrong and many of which have nothing to do with a classmate’s gender identity.”
A similar legal challenge was turned down earlier this month by a federal judge in Tallahassee. In both cases, the judges questioned the plaintiffs’ legal standing because they couldn’t explain how the law hurt them.
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The Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Countering Digital Hate, two of the largest LGBTQ advocacy groups in the country, released a report in August saying that online homophobic comments about gays, lesbians, and other LGBTQ people went up after the bill was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in Florida. The measure was pushed by the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.
The judge’s decision was “wrong,” according to the civil rights groups that helped the families file the complaint.
Kell Olson, a staff attorney at Lambda Legal, a civil rights group that focuses on LGBTQ rights, says that the students and families at the center of this lawsuit have been bullied more in the months since the law went into effect than they ever have before.
In its ruling, the court said, “The court’s decision goes against decades of law that says schools have a constitutional duty to protect student speech and protect students from bullying and harassment based on who they are.”