Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a
Republican with presidential ambitions, on Monday signed a bill into
law dubbed “Don't Say Gay.”
House Bill 1557 prohibits schools for
children in kindergarten through grade 3 from engaging in
“instruction” about sexual orientation and gender identity. It
also restricts the topic throughout the education system and allows
parents to sue school districts.
Pressure for DeSantis to veto the bill
had been mounting for weeks, including from Disney, which has been
roundly criticized for its tepid response to the legislation.
But DeSantis remained defiant of his
critics as he signed the bill.
“I don't care what corporate media
outlets say,” DeSantis told the small crowd gathered at a charter
school campus. “I don't care what Hollywood says. I don't care what
big corporations say. Here I stand. I'm not backing down.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBTQ rights advocate, said in a statement that it
was committed to “fight until this dangerous attack on the LGBTQ+
community is either struck down or repealed in full.”
“Today, Governor DeSantis once again
placed Florida squarely on the wrong side of history, and placed his
own young constituents directly in harm's way – and he has done
this for no other reason than to serve his own political ambitions,”
said HRC Interim President Joni Madison. “We’re staring at a new
reality where LGBTQ+ students may wonder if they’re allowed to even
acknowledge their own sexuality or gender identity; a reality where
young people with LGBTQ+ family members may be forced to remain
silent while others can speak freely; a reality where LGBTQ+ school
staff may be forbidden from so much as mentioning their loved ones.
The existence of LGBTQ+ people across Florida is not up for debate,
and this restriction on free speech flies in the face of one of our
most sacred rights. So, let’s be clear – this bill must be
repealed. We are proud parents, students, and teachers, and LGBTQ+
people deserve to exist boldly and openly, just like everyone else."
The ACLU of Florida called the
legislation “unconstitutional and dangerous.”
The law is expected to take effect on
July 1, 2022.