Note: The above video is archive footage of Gov. Ron DeSantis signing HB 1557 into law in 2022.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A federal judge in Florida has dismissed a lawsuit contesting Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, saying that the plaintiffs lacked standing to present a legal challenge, despite their allegations of harm.
The lawsuit, first filed at the end of March 2022, was brought by a group of parents, students, religious leaders, and other advocates, such as Equality Florida.
The plaintiffs alleged that House Bill 1557, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, had done harm to them and their loved ones as a result of what they call “an unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence, and erase” the LGBTQ community in Florida.
Additionally, they argued in court that the bill “would deny to an entire generation that LGBTQ people exist and have equal dignity” under the law. Going further, the lawsuit claims the bill is an “effort to control young minds through state censorship” and a way to “demean LGBTQ lives by denying their reality,” and “is a grave abuse of power.”
Nearly a year after the battle in court progressed, Judge Allen Winsor ruled that while the plaintiffs provided their grievances, what was presented was not enough to show they had suffered “constitutional injury.”
Winsor wrote in his dismissal of the case that “while Plaintiffs undoubtedly disagree with the policy choice to remove certain books from certain libraries, ‘“’a generalized grievance, ‘no matter how sincere,’ cannot support standing'” for injunctive relief.
Instead, Winsor said the plaintiffs have not alleged any facts to show that removal of books, or other changes to school functions, policies, and programs had been “traceable to the law’s enforcement or redressable by an injunction,” nor proven that an injunction would lead to the books’ return to school shelves, among restoration of other removed items, content, or programs.
Additional claims filed by the plaintiffs, referring to removal of “safe space” stickers from schools in Pasco County, did not add support to the lawsuit’s allegations, according to Winsor. While the removal of the stickers did present as “sufficient to state an injury,” according to the judge, the plaintiffs did not provide “facts to show traceability or redressability,” therefore lacking standing for legal intervention by the court.
Critics of the bill said previously that it would stigmatize LGBTQ youth, who already face more mental stress, discrimination, and tension at home, according to the Trevor Project, a national advocacy organization for LGBTQ community members.
Finalizing his dismissal of the case, Winsor wrote that the “Plaintiffs have shown a strident disagreement with the new law, and they have alleged facts to show its very existence causes them deep hurt and disappointment. But to invoke a federal court’s jurisdiction, they must allege more,” continuing that “their failure to do so requires dismissal,” and dismissing the case without prejudice.
Legally speaking, Winsor’s order grants a win to state officials but still leaves plaintiffs an opening to appeal or file new legal challenges to the law.