Activists, lawmakers label Gov. DeSantis ‘coward’ for rushed LGBTQ instruction bill signing
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/3/22-Students and activists opposed to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill now moving through the Legislature protest outside the House Chamber, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, is seen at right, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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"Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 'Don't Say Gay' bill in the most cowardly way possible today."

It’s only been a few hours since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial HB 1557 into law, but Equality Florida quickly organized a news conference via zoom to condemn what speakers called a cowardly act.

The Governor announced his news conference to sign the bill with less than an hour’s notice. WFLA’s Evan Donovan said his station got a call to let them know the conference was happening before an email went out, breaking communication norms.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the most cowardly way possible today,” Senior Political Director for Equality Florida Joe Saunders said. “He hid his agenda from the media and the public until the last moment, skulking onto a charter school campus that is exempt from the law and away from students who would protest his presence.”

Before working with Equality Florida, Saunders was among the first openly LGBTQ members of Florida’s House of Representatives. Rep. Michele Rayner, the first openly LGBTQ Black woman in the Florida House, echoed Saunders’ sentiment.

“He’s a coward and he knows that there are more against him than with him,” Rayner argued. “What I will not do in my capacity, as long as I have this capacity and platform, is allow our children and allow our community to be harmed by bigoted people who are more concerned about power than they are concerned about people.”

Saunders used the call to announce that a lawsuit against the bill would be coming and promised “swift and fierce” litigation. He said one of the most harmful aspects of the bill is the freedom it gives some parents to sue others if they feel parental rights are violated.

“We are announcing and launching a legal defense fund not just for school districts in the state, people who want to protect school districts from these specious lawsuits and litigation,” Saunders said, “but also for the parents and for the young people who will be harmed by this terrible bill.”

During the bill’s signing earlier in the day, DeSantis accused supporters of either not reading the bill or pushing an agenda if they had. He accused opponents of the bill of sexualizing kids.

“This law doesn’t solve any problem that exists. Instead, HB 1557 has been weaponized by the Governor’s Office to launch a bigoted smear campaign to attack and defame LGBTQ Floridians with baseless accusations of grooming and pedophilia,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said. “HB 1557 does absolutely nothing to prohibit conversations about sex, sexual activity or sex ed with young children, despite its proponents’ claims.”

Supporters of the bill argued that the language would remove conversations about sexual identity that might be inappropriate for young children. But during the signing, supporters said the “fight is clear” that the bill is about specific kinds of conversations.

“Do you think it’s appropriate for kids to walk into a classroom when they are five and six years old to learn about transgender instead of math or science or photosynthesis or whatever it is for that day?” Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls said. “Do you think that’s appropriate?”

Saunders said the focus of opposition is section three of the bill, which reads: “A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

He said that language could have a chilling effect by making teachers afraid to broach topics pertaining to even the existence of the LGBTQ community, even if those children come from families with LGBTQ members or if the instructor is part of the community as well.

The bill’s proponents have denied that framing, arguing the legislation only deals with a school’s official curriculum. But Saunders argued the bill’s language is vague and broad. As written, it could remove any material referencing any kind of relationship, be it straight or gay. But so far, the only materials proposed for removal have been stories featuring LGBTQ parents, like And Tango Makes Three, the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo that cared for an egg and raised its hatchling together.

“The Governor wants to have it both ways. He wants to tell everybody who’s critical of the legislation — and specifically section three, which is where all of our focus has been — that we didn’t read it or if we did read it that we have some kind of hidden agenda,” Saunders said. “He’s publicly yelled at reporters who called it the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, with some sort of homage to neutrality as if his intention is to scrub any reference of heterosexuality or straight families from curriculum. We know that that’s not true. And that’s not their intent.”

Janelle Perez is a candidate for state Senate from South Florida. She’s a married gay woman and mother of two. She said the Governor celebrating “freedom” and “parental rights” does not include all Floridians or all parents.

“Families like mine are going to be impacted by bills like this for years. My daughter is in pre-K for now. She’s going to enter kindergarten next year,” Perez said.

“How will her teachers be able to teach? How will her class interact with her on that first day of school when she draws a picture of her family? What’s that going to be like for her? How is she going to feel when the teachers won’t be able to talk openly or they’re going to be treading a line so carefully because this legislation is so broad. How are my kids going to feel? Gov. DeSantis spoke a lot about freedom of parents today. But you know which type of parents he didn’t mention? Me. Parents like me.”

HB 1557 will become law July 1.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected]


23 comments

  • Antonio

    March 28, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    All these people opposing this bill are literally advocating for little kids to hear sexually inappropriate things from their teachers and for parents not to know about it. That is disgusting and disgraceful.

    • Concern Citizen

      March 28, 2022 at 7:19 pm

      Are you saying that being gay is sexually inappropriate ?

        • Tjb

          March 29, 2022 at 5:11 pm

          I bet that one of the first cases to come to the courts will be because a teacher allegedly spoke about LGBTQ issue. Also, why does this law only make public schools liable and not charter schools.

      • Antonio

        March 28, 2022 at 10:58 pm

        Any subject in school regarding sex of any type for kids in 3rd grade or younger is 100% inappropriate. Hiding it from their parents is even more devious. The fact that you seem to advocate little kids need to hear this stuff is extremely disturbing.

        The basic point is that if you oppose HB 1557, it’s down to four things:
        1) You haven’t read the bill and are just repeating the propaganda someone else told you.
        2) You are deliberately lying for political reasons.
        3) You oppose parents knowing what’s going on with their kids in school.
        4) You want little kids being thought sexually inappropriate things before they are eight years of age.

        So which is it, are you a dummy, a liar, an indoctrinator, or a pedophile?

        • From friends

          March 28, 2022 at 11:53 pm

          For the record if your kids gay he is gonna hate you and not consider his parent later on anyway lol

          • Antonio

            March 29, 2022 at 11:30 am

            Deflection and insults aren’t helping your argument. Can I ask why you oppose this bill? Please be precise, what section or subsection do you disagree with and why?

        • Inmates are Running the Asylum

          March 29, 2022 at 12:29 pm

          Where was the actions listed in the bill being done?

          The bill itself is pointless along with the other ones that have come to light (unless there is some 3D chess being played I don’t see – then we’re all pooched). It appears to be simply pandering to illict anger or feeling of conquest.

          And by calling someone a dummy, a liar, an indonctrinator, or a pedophile is a strawman fallacy, not to mention calling someone out for the same bad debate arguments. It appears like a Dunning-Keurger effect.

          This bill was a waste of time and Taxpayer money. It’s like someone not a diabetic taking MetFormin because they read on the internet it helps with the aging process. It was not needed because it wasn’t a problem.

      • Lady Gator

        March 29, 2022 at 11:51 am

        If you want to teach your 5 year old -8 year old child about homosexuality and transgender sexuality or any sexual matter ….have at it, but this discussion has no place in any school.

        Reading, writing and arithmetic, geography and history is what needs to be taught.

        The left is up and arms they can’t corrupt the innocence of children. Too bad that parents have the right to raise their children according to their own morals and beliefs.

        • Tjb

          March 29, 2022 at 5:13 pm

          This bill only applies to charter schools.

    • They can Leave

      March 28, 2022 at 8:13 pm

      Ron de Santis “bet he would stopped at the border with that name” hates gay peoples and so does his voters. If they not to do all this they can pack up Cuba only a hundred miles away and they can there and be among an oppressive government

      • Just Wondering

        March 28, 2022 at 9:01 pm

        What gives you such an idea? Can you provide the text where this bill says against being gay?

        • No I’m not

          March 28, 2022 at 9:20 pm

          No just get rid of it.

          Which will not be hard considering most of you “parents” are not even good enough teach your kids how to drawn in a in a line

          Explains why you still live on wheels lol

          • Antonio

            March 28, 2022 at 11:06 pm

            As I said elsewhere, the intellectually weak can never debate properly, they can only resort to blind insults. You have no substance and your blind assumptions are as laughable as you inability to debate.

      • Just is

        March 28, 2022 at 11:56 pm

        I’m just not going to waste time debating a Republican. I don’t feel like it.

        And it’s not assumption it’s fact. As fact as seeing you all driving around in 30 year old cars becuase you can’t afford anything better

        You think we are elite becuase we are lol

        • Antonio

          March 29, 2022 at 12:04 pm

          LOL…What makes you think I am a Republican or that Democrats are “elite”? Good and evil are not set standards of one political party over another, there are plenty of crap politicians on both sides of the aisle. To think otherwise is silly.

          And once again, deflection and insults are hallmarks of the intellectually weak. If that is not you, please change my mind by engaging instead of insulting blindly.

          • Easy read

            March 29, 2022 at 2:03 pm

            “What makes you think I am Republican

            You all sound alike lol

    • It’s just funny

      March 29, 2022 at 12:00 am

      Your the same republicans who say that and all your kids in their room playing Doom on Xbox

      Nice world shielding man lol

  • A hater

    March 28, 2022 at 8:25 pm

    It’s ok we can defeat this and him
    I mean have you talked to this guys voters? Or just republicans?

    You ask them the alphabet they all like A B C 5 lol

  • Beth

    March 29, 2022 at 4:54 am

    How creepy that he signed a hate bill disguised as parent rights surrounded by school children. What’s next the “ DeSantis Youth”?

    • Candy man

      March 29, 2022 at 10:38 am

      We’ll look at him.

      Looks like he drives a candy van around Miami lol

  • Inmates are Running the Asylum

    March 29, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    You all are asking the incorrect question – not about if it was right or wrong – but who was doing it that they needed a law to protect the children?

    Who was violating the parent’s rights that there needed codified instruction? Give me an example of this being done in FL. A legitimate example where someone was brought to bare or punished?

    I wager there wasn’t any and this was BIG WASTE OF TIME AND TAXPAYER MONEY!

    Dear Legislatures – please fix real issues.

Comments are closed.


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