Florida Parental Rights in Education Act

The Parental Rights in Education Act, described as the Don't Say Gay act by its opponents, is a Florida state law introduced and passed in 2022 that outlines new statutes for public education, which prohibits "classroom instruction" on sexual orientation or gender identity in "kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards" in public schools and prohibits public schools from restricting parental access to their student's education and health records.[1] Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on March 28, 2022, which became effective on July 1, 2022.[2]

Parental Rights in Education Act
Seal of Florida.svg
Florida Legislature
CitationHB 1557
Enacted by2020–2022 Florida Legislature
PassedMarch 28, 2022
Signed byGovernor Ron DeSantis
CommencedJuly 1, 2022
Introduced byJoe Harding
Dennis K. Baxley
Parental Rights in Education; Requires district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with certain provisions of law for notifying student's parent of specified information; requires such procedures to reinforce fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing & control of their children; prohibits school district from adopting procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying parent about specified information or that encourage student to withhold from parent such information; prohibits school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification & involvement in critical decisions affecting student's mental, emotional, or physical well-being; prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels; requires school districts to notify parents of healthcare services; authorizes parent to bring action against school district to obtain declaratory judgment; provides for additional award of injunctive relief, damages, & reasonable attorney fees & court costs to certain parents.
Status: In force

It has been described as the "Don't Say Gay" act by its opponents who have criticized it for entirely prohibiting education about the LGBT community, LGBT history, LGBT rights, and same-sex marriage in early grades and also restricting such education in a manner that is deemed to be against state standards in all grades. The opponents include students, civil rights organizations, businesses, and the federal government of the United States, including the President of the United States. The Walt Disney Company was vocal in its opposition following pressure from its employees, precipitating in an ongoing feud between Disney and DeSantis, which precipitated in the abolition of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.[3] Massive walkouts were held by students in schools across Florida in opposition to what they described as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, with students chanting "We Say Gay" in response.[4][5]

Legislative historyEdit

Republican Florida state Sen. Dennis K. Baxley originally introduced SB 1834 "Parental Rights in Education" into the Senate on January 7, 2022, but it later died.[6] On January 11, Republican Florida state Rep. Joe Harding along with the Education and Employment Committee introduced a companion version into the House.[6] Known informally as the "Don't Say Gay" bill,[7] it prohibited teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ related topics in classrooms from kindergarten to third grade.[8][9] The legislation has been opposed by the American Bar Association,[10] Equality Florida,[11] and President Joe Biden.[12] Despite that, on February 24, the bill passed the Florida House. It then passed the Florida Senate on March 8, with Baxley in full support.[6]

Support and oppositionEdit

Supporters of the bill state that discussions about sexuality and gender identity with very young children should be handled by a child's parents, and not by their schools;[13] DeSantis's Press Secretary Christina Pushaw has called HB 1557 an "Anti-Grooming Bill" and claimed that anyone who opposes the bill is "probably a groomer."[14] California governor Gavin Newsom called out Pushaw by remarking "I say grooming – yeah it should offend".[15] According to an online poll conducted by Ipsos, more than 6 in 10 Americans oppose laws like the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act.[14]

Dennis Baxley originally proposed the bill in 2021

Some conservatives, such as political commentator Matt Walsh, argue that the bill does not go far enough.[13] Former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard also argued that the bill should have been more expansive. Gabbard stated instead of kindergarten to grade 3, the legislation should encompass students from kindergarten to 12th grade.[16]

There are concerns among some legal scholars that the proposed legislation within Florida could violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and could be potentially unconstitutional.[17] Walkouts by students were held in schools across Florida in response to the bill.[18][19] Nationally, 158 companies (including Marriott, Hilton, American Airlines, and Airbnb) signed a Human Rights Campaign petition opposing the bill.[20] The American Psychological Association has also voiced opposition to the law.[21][22]

The Walt Disney CompanyEdit

Employees at The Walt Disney Company planned walkouts over the bill, which culminated in a large protest.[23] The company and CEO Bob Chapek (despite earlier maintaining no stance), as well as Disney heir Charlee Corra all decided to publicly oppose the bill, with Corra also using the moment to come out as transgender. The company received heavy criticism from DeSantis and many conservative media outlets for its opposition to the bill.[24][25]

Other corporate donationsEdit

Donations to politicians supporting the bill include UnitedHealth Group ($200,000), Publix ($125,000), Charter Communications ($102,000), AT&T ($86,000), Anheuser-Busch ($75,000), Duke Energy ($34,000), Comcast/NBCUniversal ($28,000), and Walgreens ($28,000).[26][27] Many of these companies—such as UnitedHealth Group, AT&T, Duke Energy, Comcast/NBCUniversal, and Walgreens—have been noted for "publicly promot[ing themselves] as fighting for LGBTQ rights".[26]

Public opinionEdit

A University of Florida poll showed voters are divided – 49% strongly or somewhat disapproved of the legislation and 40% strongly or somewhat approved. The poll's small sample size made the margin of error high.[28] A Yahoo! News/YouGov poll found that 76% of Republicans support the legislation. The poll found that 24% of Democrats supported the bill, 24% responded "not sure", and 52% opposed it.[29] A poll from the Republican campaigning company Public Opinion Strategies found that 61% support the legislation while 26% oppose it, 67% of parents support the legislation while 24% oppose it, and 51% of Democrats support the legislation while 29% oppose it.[30]

Legal challengesEdit

On March 31, a lawsuit was filed in federal court by law firm Kaplan Hecker and Fink, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and public attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz on behalf of Equality Florida and Family Equality, which sought to block the bill on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. The lawsuit alleged that the bill violates the constitutionally protected rights of free speech, equal protection and due process of students and families, and argued that the bill was an effort to "control young minds" which prevented students from living "their true identities in school".[31][32][33]

On July 26, Florida high school student Will Larkins and the national LGBT+ organization CenterLink, through the Southern Poverty Law Center, Southern Legal Counsel, and Lambda Legal, filed suit against four Florida school districts' boards (those of the Orange County Public Schools, the School District of Palm Beach County, the School District of Indian River County, and the Duval County Public Schools), claiming the law's "vigilante enforcement mechanism," combined with its "intentionally vague and sweeping scope, invites parents who oppose any acknowledgement whatsoever of the existence of LGBTQ+ people to sue, resulting in schools acting aggressively to silence students, parents, and school personnel."[34] A representative for Duval County stated that the school administration "will always take steps necessary to comply with Florida laws."[35] In October 2022, federal judge Wendy Berger dismissed the suit, for lack of standing, which challenged the legislation effective since July 1. She gave the plaintiffs 14 days to file a revised lawsuit. [36][37]

Derivative legislationEdit

Federal effortsEdit

Republican Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana introduced the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act, a version of the bill in the US House of Representatives titled the which has gained 32 GOP cosponsors. The bill is argued by its critics to not only replicate but go further than the Parental Rights in Education Act, as it would prohibit LGBTQ material in all federal facilities, prohibit drag performances in all federally-funded institutions, and similar to the Texas Heartbeat Act, include a private right of action clause enabling parents and guardians to sue institutions which hold such performances.[38]

State effortsEdit

At least 20 states have had their legislatures introduce derivative bills of the Parental Rights in Education Act. In April 2022, Alabama became the second state to pass a similar bill, with governor Kay Ivey signing House Bill 322, legislation which additionally requires all students to use either male or female bathrooms in Alabama public schools based on their biological sex. It is noted that some states have had similar provisions to Florida's law since the 1980s, though they have never gained the name of "Don't Say Gay" bills by critics until recently.[39][40]



  1. ^ "Florida House Bill 1557". Flsenate.gov. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  2. ^ O'Connor, Lydia (2022-03-28). "Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Into Law". HuffPost. Retrieved 2022-03-28.
  3. ^ Maddaus, Gene (2022-04-06). "Disney vs. Ron DeSantis: Why the Media Giant's Fight Over 'Don't Say Gay' Keeps Escalating". Variety. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  4. ^ "Florida students participate in massive walkout to protest the 'Don't Say Gay' bill". CNN. Archived from the original on 2022-11-03. Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  5. ^ "Florida students stage school walkouts over 'Don't Say Gay' bill". NBC. Archived from the original on 2022-08-22. Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  6. ^ a b c "CS/CS/HB 1557: Parental Rights in Education". The Florida Senate. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  7. ^ "The bizarre explanation of Florida's Don't Say Gay bill sponsor". The Independent. 8 March 2022. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  8. ^ "CS/CS/HB 1557 (2022) - Parental Rights in Education | Florida House of Representatives". www.myfloridahouse.gov. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  9. ^ "Lawmaker Pulls Amendment to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" Bill That Would Force Teachers to Out Students". news.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  10. ^ Journal, A. B. A. "ABA opposes provisions in Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill". ABA Journal. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  11. ^ Migdon, Brooke (2022-02-15). "LGBTQ+ group slams Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill in new ad". TheHill. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  12. ^ "'Don't Say Gay': Biden denounces 'hateful' new Florida bill". BBC News. 2022-02-10. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  13. ^ a b Foley, Ryan (2022-03-09). "DeSantis slams 'false' media claims about bill to ban teaching gender ideology to kids". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 2022-03-10. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  14. ^ a b Alfonseca, Kiara. "Some Republicans use false 'pedophilia' claims to attack Democrats, LGBTQ people". abcnews.go.com. ABC News. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  15. ^ Vakil, Caroline (2022-07-13). "Newsom calls out DeSantis spokesperson who suggests critics of 'Don't Say Gay' bill are 'groomers'". The Hill. Retrieved 2022-07-14.
  16. ^ Johnson, Chris (2022-04-04). "Tulsi Gabbard says Florida 'Don't Say Gay' law should have gone further". Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News. Retrieved 2022-04-24.
  17. ^ Migdon, Brooke (2022-03-05). "Does Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill violate the First Amendment?". The Hill. Archived from the original on 2022-03-08. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  18. ^ "Tampa Bay students walk out in protest of Florida's 'don't say gay' bill". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on 2022-03-06. Retrieved 2022-03-08.
  19. ^ Nation, LGBTQ. "Students across Florida walkout of classes in protest of "Don't say gay" bill". LGBTQ Nation. Archived from the original on 2022-03-07. Retrieved 2022-03-08.
  20. ^ Henry Berg-Brousseau (February 28, 2022). "Marriott, Hilton, American Airlines and AirBnb Join 150+ Major U.S. Companies To Oppose Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation in Florida".
  21. ^ "APA president condemns Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill". www.apa.org. Retrieved 2022-04-28.
  22. ^ "Psychologists Explain Why HB 1557, Dubbed 'Don't Say Gay,' Is Unhealthy For Children". 2022-03-29. Retrieved 2022-04-28.
  23. ^ Faughnder, Ryan (March 15, 2022). "Disney LGBTQ employees plan walkout over Florida bill". LA Times. Archived from the original on March 16, 2022. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  24. ^ "Disney heir comes out as transgender, condemns Florida's LGBTQ law". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  25. ^ "DeSantis takes on Disney in latest battle in the Republican culture war". the Guardian. 2022-04-09. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  26. ^ Ring, Trudy (February 17, 2022). "Pro-LGBTQ+ Companies Funded Florida Lawmakers Who Back 'Don't Say Gay'". The Advocate. Pride Media. Archived from the original on March 14, 2022. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  27. ^ "Voters split over 'Don't Say Gay' bill in Florida Legislature". Sun Sentinel. 2022-02-22. Archived from the original on 3 March 2022.
  28. ^ Romano, Andrew (2022-04-06). "Poll: Only 52% of Democrats oppose Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' policy". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 2022-05-07.
  29. ^ "'Don't Say Gay' Is Popular? You Don't Say". The Wall Street Journal. 2022-04-01. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  30. ^ "LGBTQ groups sue Florida over the so-called 'Don't Say Gay' law". Associated Press. 2022-04-01. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  31. ^ Larson, Erik (2022-03-31). "DeSantis LGBTQ School Law Harms 'True Identities,' Suit Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  32. ^ "EQUALITY FLORIDA et al v. DESANTIS et al". Justia Dockets & Filings. Retrieved 2022-07-28.
  33. ^ "Florida families and advocacy groups file lawsuit over 'Don't Say Gay' law". NBC News. Retrieved 2022-07-28.
  34. ^ "Florida families and advocacy groups file lawsuit over 'Don't Say Gay' law". NBC News. Retrieved 2022-07-28.
  35. ^ "Federal judge rejects challenge to Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law". CBS News.
  36. ^ "Judge again tosses challenge to Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill". PBS NewsHour. 2022-10-21. Retrieved 2022-11-14.
  37. ^ Pendharkar, Eesha (2022-11-09). "What the Federal 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Actually Says". Education Week. ISSN 0277-4232. Retrieved 2022-11-14.
  38. ^ "In some states, versions of 'Don't Say Gay' bills have been around for awhile". PBS NewsHour. 2022-04-21. Retrieved 2022-11-14.
  39. ^ "Alabama HB322 | 2022 | Regular Session". LegiScan. Retrieved 2022-11-14.

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