Pol Position: In a Florida State of Mind

GOP electeds in Florida have passed a controversial new law prohibiting public school teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.

Since it was introduced back in February, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has been criticized by numerous human rights, free speech, and Gay rights advocates due to the homophobic nature of the law, which attempts to censor speech regarding LGBTQ+ identities.

News of the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation reached a breaking point in March when it made national headlines, after employees with the Walt Disney Company staged a walkout protesting the legislation and demanding the company cease from making political donations and commit to a plan that would protect the rights of its staff.

Since the protest, the company has vowed to donate $5 million to organizations like the Human Rights campaign and others dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ employees, and have started discussing ways it could better serve this community in the future.

Yet, despite widespread opposition, the legislation was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said that passing the legislation “will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.”

This didn’t sit right with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who referred to the law as “political posturing,” citing that its divisive agenda aims to “demonize” members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In response to the “Don’t Say Gay” law, Adams announced that he would be posting up billboards around several major cities across the “Sunshine State,” including Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach, to remind Florida residents that NYC does not discriminate.

Of course, Gov. DeSantis fired back with false claims that the billboards were spent on the taxpayer’s dime. However, these were proven untrue as Adams stated that the campaign was funded through private donations.

“This is the city of Stonewall,” Adams said during a recent press conference. “This is the city where we are proud to talk about how you can live in a comfortable setting and not be harassed, not be abused.”

DeSantis has repeatedly defended the legislation, zeroing in on the restriction over what can be taught to children in Kindergarten through 3rd grade, and shifting attention away from what many believe to be intentionally vague language restrictions on the instruction of topics not deemed “age appropriate.”

He responded to Adams attacks with over-the-top remarks about free speech and the mask mandates in schools–a topic which he was so personally vehement about that he issued an executive order banning them from schools. DeSantis had even gone so far as to threaten to strip funding from schools in Democratic counties that defied him.

“They’re saying you can say whatever you want, but they’re the ones who will force a mask on your face and muzzle you in public,” DeSantis said, directing his attention at Adams.

“I like rivalries with other states,” Adams remarked. “Florida can bring it on.”

But the real question we’re left asking ourselves is who really loses from the passing of this law? It’s certainly not any of the cis-gender lawmakers. It’s the teachers and students who are impacted by it.

Needless to say, Mayor Adams has a solid point… such a proposal would never fly in the state of New York. There are countless teacher’s unions and pro-Gay activism groups that would have swiftly put a stop to it before it even reached the floor.

And although Hizzoner didn’t spend any taxpayer money to put up these signs, he certainly has spent a lot of his time and attention directing his focus towards Florida’s hateful agenda by furthering this contest of wits with DeSantis.

Meanwhile, Adams has himself been under scrutiny from the LGBTQ+ community over decisions to appoint three people to office who have previously expressed homophobic remarks.

One activist went so far as to tell ABC News that he was “very disappointed and outraged” by the Mayor’s appointments, but ultimately decided it was best to move onward, finding there was a lot more they could do by working together.