Joe Harding says national support for controversial ‘parental rights’ law helped net him $70K in donations
Joe Harding

Joe Harding
The Republican lawmaker was the chief sponsor of the controversial bill regulating discussions of gender and sexual orientations in classrooms.

Republican Rep. Joe Harding raised more than $70,000 in donations from across the country last month, averaging less than $19 per contribution, his campaign announced Wednesday.

Harding received a groundswell of grassroots support in March when the parental rights measure he authored hit the headlines, his campaign announced. He recently offered to return $3,126 in Disney donations after the company spoke against the bill. His March haul represents a figure 23 times higher than those returned donations.

His parental rights bill that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law March 28 has earned the law the nickname “Don’t Say Gay” from critics. The law explicitly prohibits school instruction concerning gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade. Similar instruction in other grade levels is limited to “age-appropriate” discussion.

Critics believe the law’s vague wording could make any schoolhouse discussions of those topics verboten in all grades, and keep teachers from helping students who are struggling with their identities outside of cisgender and heterosexual orientation.

Harding’s official March financial report isn’t due until April 10, but the freshman lawmaker’s campaign says his stance earned him the support of 3,700 donors, with the majority — two-thirds — coming from outside Florida.

Harding has steadfastly insisted these issues should remain the province of students’ home and family.

“The outpouring of support from ordinary citizens all across America is one of the most encouraging things that’s happened during my time in office,” Harding said, according to a release from his campaign. “They know the truth is being distorted, and they know that parents’ rights are worth fighting for. We’re in it together, and I will always fight for the defense of parents and families.”

The bill (HB 1557) — and its signing into law — earned the condemnation of a raft of Democratic politicians, from President Joe Biden on down.

“It is hateful, harmful and has no place in our state,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava tweeted on the day it was signed.

Disney, which came under pressure from workers who walked out over the company’s initial silence on the legislation, issued an official statement saying it would be their goal to repeal the law.

Other lawmakers such as Dade City Republican Rep. Randy Maggard and DeLand Republican Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff have joined Harding in returning their Disney donations since the controversy erupted. And Harding Wednesday said it’s Disney that needs to change.

“As I said last week, I can’t be aligned with a corporation taken over by the woke Leftist mob mentality coming out of California and other blue states,” Harding said. “Disney should be a champion for families, and I sincerely hope they reconsider their position.”

His campaign characterized the law as one that “requires schools to keep parents fully informed and restricts classroom teaching on sex and gender theory for grades K-3.”

Harding was elected in 2020 to House District 22 which covers Levy County and the cities of Cedar Key, Chiefland, Williston and Bronson.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

One comment

  • Comment

    April 7, 2022 at 5:16 pm

    Hateful harmful. I think no one wants you to push yourself on other’s

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