Gov. Ron DeSantis accused the Joe Biden administration of trying to take poor kids’ lunch money, in the latest escalation of conflict between Tallahassee and Washington on issues of gender identity.
DeSantis, at a press conference in Rockledge Wednesday, spotlighted the state’s 2021 ban of transgender athletes in amateur female sports and federal opposition.
“We did that. I think most people agree it’s the proper thing to do,” DeSantis said. “Biden is now threatening to penalize states that have taken basic commonsense actions like just recognizing the importance of women’s sports.”
DeSantis then pointed to a policy from the U.S. Department of Agriculture tying its programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to compliance with Title IX protections that extend to matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. So far, however, the USDA has not explicitly threatened to revoke any funding. Several states have sued over the policy shift.
“They’re threatening to take away lunch money from poor kids as punishment from us protecting women’s sports. Think about how deranged that is,” DeSantis asserted.
“They’re so intent on destroying the competition of women’s athletics that they’re going to use school lunch money for poor kids as a cudgel to try to get us to submit to what they want. We’re not backing down one inch on this,” DeSantis vowed, to applause from the room.
DeSantis mocked people apparently wondering what Florida would “teach” in the upcoming school year.
“People, how are they going to know what to teach or whatever? And I’m just thinking to myself, you know, you teach reading, math, science, the basic stuff. And you don’t teach gender ideology, (critical race theory), the sexuality in the elementary schools,” DeSantis said. “That’s not very difficult to know and that’s not very difficult to understand.”
The USDA has defended its policies.
“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness, and serving those in need with the highest dignity. A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form — including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in May.
“At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face. We hope that by standing firm against these inequities we will help bring about much-needed change.”
“Whether you are grocery shopping, standing in line at the school cafeteria, or picking up food from a food bank, you should be able to do so without fear of discrimination,” added Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean. “No one should be denied access to nutritious food simply because of who they are or how they identify.”