ORLANDO, Fla. – Today, Lambda Legal, Southern Legal Counsel (SLC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and private counsel Baker McKenzie urged a federal district court to halt implementation of enacted Florida House Bill 1557, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and restricts such discussions for students through grade 12 based on undefined standards of appropriateness. The law, which effectively silences and erases LGBTQ+ students and families that went into effect July 1, 2022, requires school districts to implement it and empowers any parent to directly sue the school district if they are dissatisfied with its implementation of the law. The legal advocates filed a lawsuit challenging the law on July 25, 2022.
“We are asking the court to halt the damage this unconstitutional law is inflicting,” said Kell Olson, staff attorney at Lambda Legal. “LGBTQ+ students and families have already been silenced, disciplined, and have censored themselves or their children to protect themselves under this sweeping law, and they should not have to continue under these conditions while the case proceeds.”
On July 25, Lambda Legal, SLC, SPLC, and Baker McKenzie filed a lawsuit challenging the law in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on behalf of:
- Jennifer and Matt Cousins and their children, 14-year-old N.C. in ninth grade, 12-year-old S.C. in seventh grade, 8-year-old M.C. in third grade, and 6-year-old P.C. in first grade
- David Dinan and Vikranth Reddy Gongidi and their children, 9-year-old K.R.D. in fourth grade and 8-year-old R.R.D. in third grade
- Will Larkins, rising senior at Winter Park High School in Orange County, Florida
- Centerlink, Inc.
"The blatantly unconstitutional law that we have asked the Court to block from enforcement is part of a targeted and strategic attack on the rights of LGBTQ+ Floridians,” said Simone Chriss, director of the Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel. “Each day that this law is permitted to remain in place, children are deprived of access to affirming learning environments and inclusive books, materials, supports, and policies that make school a safe space in which they can learn and grow.”
“Children and families are profoundly impacted each day this unconstitutional law is in effect,” said Bacardi Jackson, interim deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Educators are struggling to meet the needs of their LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming community and need relief from the law’s contradicting provisions against what they know to be just and fair. That is why we are urging the court to immediately halt implementation in our K-12 schools and classrooms.”
“This law is an attack on LGBTQ+ youth and families," added Angela Vigil, partner and executive director of pro bono at Baker. "We are imploring the court to put an immediate stop to this unconstitutional restriction on speech causing severe harm to young people, families and everyone who just wants to be true to themselves."
The lawsuit is Cousins et al. v. The School Board of Orange County et al. Read the preliminary injunction here: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/0045_pi_motion.pdf.
Read more about the case here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/cousins-et-al-v-the-school-board-of-orange-county-et-al.
More about the clients is available here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/cousins_fl_20220725_meet-the-plaintiffs-cousins-v-the-school-board-of-orange-county.
The legal team working on the case includes, at Lambda Legal, Kell Olson, Camilla Taylor and Paul Castillo; at SPLC, Scott McCoy, Bacardi Jackson, Jennifer Vail, and Sam Boyd; at SLC, Simone Chriss and Jodi Siegel; and at Baker McKenzie, Angela Vigil, Debra Dandeneau, Andrew Riccio, Reginald Sainvil, Richard Solow, Erika Van Horne, Taylor LeMay and John Pantin.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and policy work. www.lambdalegal.org
Southern Legal Counsel (SLC) is a Florida statewide not-for-profit public interest law firm that is committed to the ideal of equal justice for all and the attainment of basic human and civil rights. SLC's Transgender Rights Initiative protects the rights of Florida's LGBTQ+ community through federal impact litigation, policy advocacy, and individual representation. www.southernlegal.org
Through pro bono work, Baker McKenzie engages teams of problem-solvers on the most compelling social justice challenges around the globe where our teams, both from inside our Firm and with our corporate colleagues, can make an impact. www.bakermckenzie.com