Authors Of Children’s Book About Penguin With Two Dads Sue Florida

"There is no sexual implication or language."
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The authors of a children’s book about a penguin with two dads are suing the Florida Board of Education and a Florida school district for restricting their publication to children above third grade.

The authors of the picture book “And Tango Makes Three” filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday claiming that restricting access to the book in school libraries violates the First Amendment. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

In response to legislation last year, the Lake County School District near Orlando restricted access to 40 books, including “And Tango Makes Three.”

Last year, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity through grade three. Another law has since extended the restrictions through eighth grade, and in April, Florida’s board of education expanded the restrictions to all grades. Exceptions to the restrictions are as part of optional reproductive health education or to comply with existing state standards.

“Our book has been banned because Tango has two dads,” said author Justin Richardson. Richardson and his husband, Peter Parnell, authored the book together.

The book, written for children ages four to eight, is based on a true story about two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who incubated and hatched a baby chick, which zookeepers named Tango.

Richardson compared his book to the classic “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey, which tells the story of a female and male duck in Boston who raise a family of ducklings.

“Both show water birds becoming parents and caring for their young,” Richardson said. “There is no sexual implication or language in either — but only one has been banned.”

The complaint says the Lake County School District “cited no legitimate pedagogical reason for its decision” to restrict the book and calls Florida’s law “vague and overbroad.”

“The book is factually accurate, non-vulgar and non-obscene; ‘Tango’ had previously stood on school library shelves; and ‘Tango’ was restricted for illegitimate, narrowly partisan and political reasons,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also alleges the authors’ reputations have been damaged by accusations that the book “contains sexual or age-inappropriate material that deserves to be banned.”


A group of six students is joining the authors in the suit, including a first-grader who wants to read “And Tango Makes Three” because of his fascination with animals, the lawsuit claims.

The Lake County School District said it restricted the book to comply with state law.

“We removed access to ‘And Tango Makes Three’ for our kindergarten through third-grade students in alignment with Florida House Bill 1557, which at the time prohibited classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for those grade levels,” a spokeswoman for the Lake County school district said.

DeSantis has argued the legislation keeps parents informed about what their kids are exposed to and protects young children from sexualization.

“We are going to remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy, and kids should have an upbringing that reflects that,” DeSantis said when he signed the new law expanding content restrictions through eighth grade.

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