A United States District judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by numerous gay-right organizations, teachers, and students against Florida’s parental rights bill, H.B. 1556)
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in late March.
The law prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in grades kindergarten through third grade that is not age-appropriate.
Widely criticized as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the law was opposed by dozens of multi-billion-dollar corporations, most notably the Walt Disney Company.
Equity Florida served as the lead plaintiff in the case against Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida State Board of Education, the Commissioner of Education, and other state officials.
In July, the Christian Action Network joined many other pro-family organizations when it filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the parental rights.
In his ruling, District Judge Allen Winsor ruled none of the plaintiffs had the standing to sue.
Though the plaintiffs’ complaints were “replete with allegations showing their asserted injuries,” they failed to prove any injuries occurred before the law was passed.
“It should be obvious that harms predating a statute’s enforcement were not caused by the statute’s enforcement,” Judge Winsor wrote.
Many plaintiffs alleged that the law placed unconstitutional restrictions on teachers, parents, and students, such as rights to free speech.
However, the court argued that the law restricts school districts alone.
“Furthermore, the law is enforced against school districts, not teachers. Even the plaintiffs concede that school districts have the power to ‘direct teachers as to what they may, and may not teach,’” the court said.
One plaintiff argued that the law would chill free speech, even if it is only enforced in school districts.
Judge Winsor found this argument without merit.
“A plaintiff must show that the challenged law arguably forbids the chilled speech and that exercising the speech may have real consequences. That is what is missing here. Plaintiffs offer no indication—speculative or otherwise—about what might happen to students or parents who acted contrary to H.B. 1557.”
Some parents worried that they “may no longer be included in school events, including career day or other classroom activities, because of a fear that their presence will lead to violations of H.B. 1557 or make school community members uncomfortable.”
“These actions are not classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Judge Winsor refuted. “Again, they allege generalities and point to actions clearly not covered – like teachers having photos of same-sex spouses on their desks.”
Without any evidence of actual factual harm, Florida Equity made the odd claim that it suffered injury due to the amount of time and money it spent opposing the bill.
Florida Equity told the court it “spent on social media and television ads, staff travel to the legislature, and expenses relating to constituent lobbying days, among other things.”
Judge Winsor disputed this argument. “Political advocacy to defeat legislation is not cognizable harm in this circumstance. If it were, any political opponent of any law would have standing to sue.
“It is not enough, for example, to allege vaguely that ‘[t]he organizations themselves are also suffering injury to their mission and by virtue of the need to divert resources to combat an unjust law,’” he wrote.
However, Judge Winsor conceded the organizations might “ultimately have standing. But they have not met their burden at this stage to allege sufficient facts supporting it. They will have another opportunity to do so.”
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