Officials with Equality Florida this afternoon (Monday, March 11) announced “an historic settlement agreement with the state of Florida that “puts an end to some of the most dangerous impacts” of the state’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay bill.

Signed into law in March 2022 by Florida’s anti-LGBTQ governor and failed presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill initially banned instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity in public school grades kindergarten through third grades. The measure was expanded to cover all grades last year.

Immediately after DeSantis first signed the measure into law, Equality Florida and Family Equality joined forces with parents, students and teachers from around the state to file a lawsuit challenging the law.

Today, the state settled that suit with the plaintiffs.

According to an Equality Florida press release, the settlement:

  • restores the ability of students and teachers to speak freely about LGBTQ people, families and issues in the classroom;
  • states that the law does not prohibit books, musicals or plays featuring LGBTQ characters;
  • reiterates that the law does not prohibit anti-bullying guidance or resources aimed at improving the mental and physical health of LGBTQ students;
  • clarifies that the law does not require the removal of safe space stickers or the elimination of safe spaces, and
  • protects gay-straight alliances/genders-sexualities alliances as an extracurricular activity.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, offered a “special thank you to the incredibly brave plaintiffs, our partners at Family Equality and the brilliant legal minds at Kaplan Hecker & fink LLP and the National Center for Lesbian Rights,” and called the settlement “a giant step toward repairing the immense damage these laws and dangerous political rhetoric have inflicted on our families, our schools and our state.”

Noting that when the measure was first introduced and passed, DeSantis and his supporters accused LGBTQ advocates of “exaggerating the harms” that the bill would cause, Smith then went on to list some of the damage it has caused.

She said that since the law was passed, Florida has been named the No. 1 book-banning state in the country; safe space stickers have been ripped off classroom windows; LGBTQ teachers were told to take down photos of their families in their classrooms, and educators have left the profession.

“DeSantis knew exactly what this vague and punitive censorship bill would do when he signed it into law, and he was eager to turn schools over to book-banning extremists who censor and whitewash history and relentlessly attack LGBTQ students and parents when he thought it would get him in the White House,” Smith said.

But, she continued, “after facing a humiliating loss in his bid for president, DeSantis is now acting ‘shocked’ that his anti-freedom agenda has led to empty library shelves, a catastrophic teacher shortage and thousands of parents mobilizing to school board meetings to speak out against these attacks on their rights.”

In a statement released online by his office, DeSantis celebrated the settlement as a victory for his side, calling is “a major win against the activists who sought to stop Florida’s efforts to keep radical gender and sexual ideology out of the classrooms of public school children in kindergarten through third grade,” according to Newsweek.

The settlement, he added, “ensure that the law will remain in effect.”

Speaking for the plaintiffs, attorney Roberta Kaplan said that for the last two years, the “notorious ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law has spawned a disturbing wave of fear, anxiety and confusion. By providing much-needed clarity, this settlement represents a major victory” for LGBTQ students, their families, teachers and allies.

Kaplan said the agreement “nullifies the most dangerous and discriminatory aspects of the law” and clarifies that the law must be “applied neutrally and shouldn’t be used as a basis to discriminate against LGBTQ+ families.”