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A substantial, if not quite total, victory over Ron DeSantis’s most beloved legislative initiative:

If Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had a signature policy, it was “Don’t Say Gay.” The law, which prohibited discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, and was interpreted more broadly to remove LGBTQ books and students’ Pride flags from classrooms, burnished the governor’s national profile as he launched his failed run at the White House. His staff were so committed to defending the law, they launched conspiracy theories accusing anyone who opposed it of being “groomers”—i.e., sexual predators. Now, two years after it was signed, a courtroom settlement has determined that students and teachers are allowed to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity after all. This result, advocates involved in the suit say, has “successfully dismantled the most harmful impacts of the law.” 

Is it possible that the DeSantis’s reign of terror on queer and trans Floridians is coming apart? While the DeSantis administration immediately issued a press release calling the settlement a “win,” in that the law has not been struck down entirely, there’s no denying that its scope is now severely curtailed; the settlement stipulates that only formal instruction of gender and sexuality has been restricted. And the anti-queer and anti-trans lawmakers in the Florida state legislature should see this as a double rebuke: When their session closed last week, 21 of the 22 anti-LGBTQ bills they had proposed were effectively dead.

As Gira Grant observes, though, it’s also important to remember the damage that has already been done:

While the Florida law was being challenged in court, it was reshaping the lives of queer and trans adults and kids alike in the state, in ways that can’t necessarily be recovered. More than half of 113 LGBTQ+ parents in Florida surveyed by the Williams Institute in 2022 had considered moving to another state because of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, as detailed in a report published in January 2023—16.5 percent had taken steps to leave Florida, and 21 percent said they were less out about their own identity. 

The complete immolation of DeSantis’s political career is one of the unequivocal highlights of 2024.

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