Protecting kids or promoting hate?
Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses guests at the Republican Party of Marathon County Lincoln Day Dinner on May 06, 2023 in Rothschild, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
By Ryan Dailey
News Service of Florida
May 19, 2023
TALLAHASSEE --- Gov. Ron DeSantis this week stood at a lectern with a placard declaring “let kids be kids” as he signed a suite of bills targeting LGBTQ issues — something the organization Equality Florida branded as the governor’s “slate of hate.”
Among the legislation signed by DeSantis at a Tampa Christian school Wednesday were bills that will prohibit or limit medical care for transgender people, prevent minors from attending drag shows and impose restrictions on which bathrooms trans people can use.
“I think this is something that we just made the decision as a state and me as governor to just say we’re protecting kids. We’re protecting kids. And we’re going to protect kids when it’s popular. We’ll protect kids, even when you take some incoming as a result of maybe offending some ideologies or some agendas out there, but that’s fine,” the governor said.
One of the measures signed by DeSantis is aimed at prohibiting doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or hormones or using surgery to treat children diagnosed with gender dysphoria (SB 254) — building on rules recently adopted by the state’s medical boards.
DeSantis said the new law, under which doctors could face third-degree felony charges for violating the prohibition on care for young people, will “permanently outlaw the mutilation of minors.”
Joe Saunders, political director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida, swiftly condemned DeSantis’ action on the legislation as part of an “all-out attack on freedom.”
A former Democratic state representative who is running for a South Florida state Senate seat, Saunders called the package of bills passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by DeSantis the largest slate of anti-LGBTQ bills in the state’s history.
Jennifer Solomon, the mother of a transgender student who participated in a press conference with reporters organized by Saunders’ group, called the LGBTQ-focused measures “extremely scary.”
“We have families that are leaving the state because they cannot properly parent their child,” Solomon, the president of PFLAG Miami, said.
Also signed by DeSantis Wednesday was a bill (HB 1069) that expands a controversial 2022 law restricting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
Last year’s law prohibits such lessons in kindergarten through third-grade. It was formally given the title Parental Rights in Education by supporters, but disparagingly given the moniker “don’t say gay” by critics.
The measure signed by DeSantis this week broadens the restrictions to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. It also limits the way teachers and students can use their preferred pronouns in schools, preventing teachers and other school employees from telling students their preferred pronouns and barring educators from asking students about their preferred pronouns.
The rift between the Walt Disney Company and DeSantis, sparked last year by the company’s entertainment giant’s opposition to the "parental rights" law, continued to deepen this week.
The company on Thursday scrapped plans to build a nearly $1 billion office complex and relocate 2,000 California-based cast members to Florida. The ditched plans came after Disney earlier this year announced reorganization plans to cut costs by $5.5 billion, including $3 billion related to content spending, as it faces a growing legal and ideological clash with the governor.
Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, told cast members that “changing business conditions” spurred the decision to cancel the planned 1.8 million-square-foot Lake Nona corporate complex outside Orlando.
Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle in a letter to community leaders said the company continues to plan on investing $17 billion into the region over the next 10 years, creating 13,000 new jobs.
Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger and DeSantis, who reportedly is preparing to launch a 2024 run for president, continue to escalate the dust-up.
During the company’s second-quarter earnings call last week, Iger said questions about risks to Disney’s future should be directed toward the state.
“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?” Iger replied when asked how investors should view the short- and long-term impacts of DeSantis’ clash with Disney.
In an interview with The American Conservative released Monday, DeSantis characterized the company as being held hostage by “a cabal of people who will go berserk if they don’t get their way.”
Democrats, however, were quick to blame DeSantis for Thursday’s announcement.
“Florida just lost 2,000 jobs and millions in additional revenue because of Ron DeSantis’ unhinged personal vendetta against Disney,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried said in a statement.
DeSantis on Tuesday said Florida “stands ready” and will send Florida National Guard troops and law-enforcement officers to Texas to help with border control.
The governor’s office said in a news release Tuesday afternoon that 800 members of the Florida National Guard, along with Florida Highway Patrol troopers, Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers were available and ready to deploy within 24 hours.
During a media appearance Tuesday, DeSantis criticized the Biden administration’s handling of immigration issues and said he had offered personnel, boats and planes to assist Texas with migrants trying to come into the country.
“We're staying on them (the Biden administration), the state of Florida is, because it's a really important issue to actually have sovereignty in our country and have the rule of law upheld,” DeSantis said at a bill-signing event in Lighthouse Point.