How a lawsuit over a teen spurred Florida Republicans to pass the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Mar 29, 22
How a lawsuit over a teen spurred Florida Republicans to pass the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

TinyMart is sharing this content, the original was posted on Politico by  ANDREW ATTERBURY and GARY FINEOUT03/29/2022 04:31 AM EDT, So please click here to go there
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Florida GOP lawmakers frequently cited the Littlejohns’ lawsuit as they debated the bill during the recent legislative session.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis displays the signed Don't Say Gay bill, flanked by elementary school students.

Near the end of her 20-minute presentation, which is posted online, Broyles displayed a projected slide with the title: “The transgender movement is a vehicle for censorship and state power,” calling the consequences of the “agenda” an “existential threat to our culture.”

National impact

Opponents of Florida’s legislation group it as one of the dozens of anti-LGBTQ proposals gaining traction in statehouses across the U.S., ranging from bills focused on bathroom use to rules banning transgender athletes from playing girls’ sports.

The Human Rights Campaign, for one, says it’s tracking at least 583 LGBTQ bills introduced in 33 states this year. Among those, the LGBTQ advocacy group describes 313 proposals as “harmful” and 137 as “anti-trans.”

While the Florida bill has been coined “Don’t Say Gay,” Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director and senior legislative counsel, says the measure is “very much about trans youth.”

This legislation and similar proposals fuel a false sense, according to Oakley, that students will stray from their LGBTQ identities if they never learn the proper words to express themselves or see role models in books or elsewhere.

“This is about trying to erase the entirety of the LGBTQ community,” Oakley told reporters last week.

In the Littlejohn case, which is currently awaiting a 2023 jury trial, the parents say their child’s comment about which bathroom to use led them to dig deeper about what was happening at school. Eventually, they learned that school officials had been meeting with the teen for weeks about their gender identity, asking questions like whether the 13-year-old was more comfortable rooming with boys or girls on overnight trips.

All the while, the Littlejohns say, the school kept them in the dark.

Attorneys for Leon County Schools attempted to have the lawsuit thrown out, arguing that the local LGBTQ guide “strives to ‘ensure that students are healthy, present, and positive members of a safe learning community.’” They contend that no employee “coerced, encouraged, or forced” the teen to meet about their gender orientation or keep anything from their parents.

Leon school officials took the unusual step of addressing ongoing litigation to contradict claims made in the Littlejohn lawsuit.

“From the moment Mrs. Littlejohn first emailed her child’s teacher to inform our staff of the situation, this has been handled together in partnership with clear communication,” said a Leon County Schools spokesperson. “We understand that outside entities have now become involved, but the family clearly instructed the school staff via email to allow their child to ‘take the lead on this’ and to do ‘whatever you think is the best.’ Additionally, our superintendent met with the family and committed to amend any vague or unclear policy language—of which we have created a committee and are working on currently.”

The Littlejohns claim in their lawsuit, however, that school leaders in Leon County are “unjustifiably” assuming all parents will disapprove of their children’s gender identity.

“It paints all parents as dangerous to their children,” Littlejohn said. “Not only is it a lie, it’s a wedge — it’s pushing a narrative to separate children from their families.”

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