TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Several gay and transgender students from Tampa Bay helped file the first lawsuit challenging Florida’s newly-signed parental rights law, labeled the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law by its critics.

The students are two gay high school students, and one 5th grade transgender student, all of whom are from the Tampa Bay region. They joined several parents and LGBTQ advocacy groups to bring the lawsuit.

The 80-page complaint claims the law violates their “rights under Title IX by discriminating against them on the basis of sex, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“We fought really hard to be recognized and affirmed in society,” said Brandon Wolf of Equality Florida, Florida’s leading LGBTQ advocacy group and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “And the idea that cynical politicians would be using the power of the state government to strip away our rights and erase us is terrifying for people.”

The lawsuit alleges that “H.B. 1557 was enacted with an invidiously discriminatory purpose and results in discriminatory and disparate effects, and thus violates the Fourteenth Amendment rights of Plaintiffs facially and as applied by Defendants.”

State Senator Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, predicted during debate on the bill that a future lawsuit would make a legal argument against the law using the phrase “invidious discrimination.”

“Remember that term ‘invidious discrimination,’” Pizzo said on the Senate floor, “because you’re going to hear it come screaming out of a courtroom. That will be what the courts use to strike down this bill.”

Pizzo made that argument after State Sen. Dennis Baxley answered a question asking why the bill specifically bans the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Why is everybody now all about coming out when you’re in school?” Baxley asked rhetorically on the Senate floor, recalling a conversation with his son who is a psychiatrist. “There’s something wrong with how we’re emphasizing this and then all of a sudden overnight…they’re a celebrity when they felt like they were nobody.”

“That’s not how this works,” responded State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said in response to those comments. “LGBTQ people like myself are a healthy and normal part of any society and any school. Conversations about us, visibility of LGBTQ families, is not dangerous. And this bill sends a message that we are dangerous.”

The sponsor of the bill, Joe Harding, R-Williston, called it a “PR stunt.”

“I welcome it because I feel confident,” Harding told 8 On Your Side. “I know teaching five-year-olds gender theory is inappropriate. And the overwhelming majority of Floridians and Americans will agree with that.”

In a statement to 8 on your side, Governor Ron DeSantis’ office argued the law does not chill speech:

This lawsuit is a political Hail-Mary to undermine parental rights in Florida. Unsurprisingly, many of the parties to this suit are advocacy groups with publicly stated political agendas,” the statement read.

At first glance, we see several erroneous claims including:

  • A person has a right to instruct another person’s child about sexuality and gender;
  • A state employee, school board administrator, or teacher has a right to craft and utilize their own unique curriculum in the kindergarten or elementary school classroom; and
  • Perhaps the most baffling charge is that this law violates the first amendment. This law does not chill speech – instead, it returns speech on these topics to the parents. The law does not prohibit student-prompted discussion in the classroom. The law does not prohibit teachers from having opinions, lifestyles, or advocacy in their personal right on their own time, and this law does not prohibit teachers from responding to student questions.

We would also note that lawsuits like this are expensive endeavors, and the eighty-page complaint was filed only three days after the bill was signed into law. It’s interesting to see that Disney did not directly join the suit as a named Plaintiff, given their recent activism, “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.” To the extent that Disney has funded these efforts, parents beware: the dollars you spend to make little boys’ and girls’ dreams come true are being used to sexualize your children in school.

This calculated, politically motivated, virtue-signaling lawsuit is meritless, and we will defend the legality of parents to protect their young children from sexual content in Florida public schools. 

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction before it goes into effect, which is set to happen on July 1.