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Students and teachers in Florida can say gay again without fear of punishment


Students and teachers in Florida can say the word gay again, at least in certain circumstances. A court settlement has gutted parts of what critics called the Don't Say Gay law, which Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law in 2022. Danielle Prieur, with member station WMFE in Orlando, has been listening to the reactions, and she's with us now. Good morning, Danielle.


FADEL: So what exactly did this settlement help determine?

PRIEUR: Yeah. So opponents of the law say the language was really vague and that the settlement actually clarifies it. So moving forward, teachers and kids can write about and express feelings about gender identity and sexual orientation pretty freely, from classroom discussions and homework assignments to extracurricular clubs like gay-straight alliances being - you know, returning back to schools, and same with anti-bullying programs. Teachers can put pictures of their partners back up in their classrooms, and even books with LGBTQ characters in them can return to the classroom, so lots of clarity here. Equality Florida's Carlos Guillermo Smith put it this way.

CARLOS GUILLERMO SMITH: It's not just that LGBT students, families and teachers can say gay or say trans. They can be gay and be trans in our schools without fear of being erased or pushed back into the closet.

FADEL: Now, Governor Ron DeSantis was really a backer of this law, signed it into law - sounds like a blow to his agenda, but he also claimed a win out of this settlement. Why?

PRIEUR: Yeah. So the settlement doesn't actually repeal or overturn the law in anyway.


PRIEUR: So it's important to remember it still bans outright instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida. So there's that kind of first piece. And then the second piece is that it's been used to drive just a lot of Florida educational policy changes since 2022. So you might remember AP African American history was banned in our state.

FADEL: Right.

PRIEUR: Well, one of the reasons was there was a queer theory unit. We also now have sociology - kids can't choose that as a core course to graduate from undergrad here in Florida 'cause it talks about human sexuality. So the law remains, and a lot of the policies around it also still remain.

FADEL: It's interesting. So he calls it a win. You describe why. But then critics of his agenda and advocates who fight against state legislatures that have passed anti-LGBTQ laws say it's a win for them. What are they saying?

PRIEUR: Yeah, they see it as the start of a trend, you know, that pushes for these anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans bills are starting to fade. I think it was on Friday here that our legislation session ended, and a lot of our bigger kind of anti-gay and anti-trans bills just died in session. So we had a really contentious bill that would have required transgender folks to stick with the sex they were assigned at birth on their driver's license. That died in session. So the Human Rights Campaign, when the settlement came out, said outright that it's cases like these and settlements like these that are really pushing and causing for laws to be overturned.

FADEL: In the little time we have left, what are teachers and parents saying?

PRIEUR: So teachers and parents that I've talked to are really grateful for clear instructions about how to use the law. This is what Andrew Spar with the Florida Education Association had to say.

ANDREW SPAR: I think what this settlement is going to do is help bring clarity to our schools, something that teachers and staff were asking for. We need to know what we can and can't do.

PRIEUR: And so just again, lots of folks grateful for more clarity today.

FADEL: Danielle Prieur with WMFE in Orlando, thank you for your reporting.

PRIEUR: Thank you so much.

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Danielle Prieur