Florida's fight over ‘Don't Say Gay’ is getting more heated. And it hasn't even gone into effect yet.

May 17, 22
Florida's fight over ‘Don't Say Gay’ is getting more heated. And it hasn't even gone into effect yet.

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The law, which is set to go into effect July 1, has led to varying responses from local school leaders and generated allegations of censorship from students speaking out against the measure.

Jennifer Aleman holds a sign protesting.

“’Don’t Say Gay’ isn’t even a law yet and you’re already using it to target LGBTQ+ students,” JJ Holmes, a Seminole County student known as an advocate for disability rights and the LGBTQ community, told the school board last week.

In one case that has drawn national attention, the first openly gay class president at Pine View School in Sarasota County, Zander Moricz, claims his principal told him not bring up his LGBTQ activism or involvement in a lawsuit challenging the legislation in his upcoming graduation speech. School officials “had a signal to cut off my microphone, end my speech, and halt the ceremony,” Moricz said in a series of tweets detailing the experience.

Equality Florida, one of the LGBTQ advocacy groups suing the DeSantis administration over the legislation, says that the two examples amount to “blatant censorship” tied to the bill. The organization, along with parents and students, is fighting the legislation in court, arguing it marks an “extraordinary government intrusion on the free speech and equal protection rights” in public schools.

“It epitomizes how the law’s vague and ambiguous language is erasing LGBTQ students, families, and history from kindergarten through 12th grade, without limits,” Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s public policy director, said in a written statement. “The law is driving division when we should have a state where all students are protected and all families are respected.”

Elsewhere, the new law has steered school districts to review their local student LGBTQ support guides to ensure that the policies are in line with the new state law. These guides, and particularly one in Leon County that is subject of a federal lawsuit, helped inspire the parental rights expansion in 2022 as Republican lawmakers argued that the plans can go too far to keep parents in the dark about children changing their names and transitioning genders.

In one example of attempted compliance, a Duval County board member proposed a resolution declaring that the school board “unequivocally supports” the state’s parental rights bill and “disapproves” of provisions within the district’s LGBTQ support guide. The proclamation also thanks DeSantis and the Legislature for defending the rights of parents. Duval County encompasses Jacksonville.

“These parents entrust their children to us every single day,” Charlotte Joyce, the Duval board member who suggested the resolution, said in an interview. “That the school district is knowingly socially transitioning students at school without parents’ knowledge, I really wanted that to come out.”

Joyce’s proposal drew a massive crowd at a May 3 board meeting, inspiring nearly 300 people on both sides of the issue to attend. The local Florida Times-Union described that police tape was used to create a makeshift aisle in the building while hundreds rallied in the parking lot.

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