HAMILTON COUNTY, Florida — Florida Gov. DeSantis took time Tuesday to defend the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law or Parental Rights in Education Act.
During a press conference in Hamilton County, Tuesday, to announce funding for infrastructure in the area, he said that this bill will protect children and touched on the state's school COVID policies. He took a dig at New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ masking policies and appeared to make a comment about the billboard campaign Adams announced Tuesday.
"They locked kids out school for a year in most of this country. We had them in school, we made sure they could go. We said, 'you shouldn't have to wear a mask for eight hours a day, like they make you in New York City.' If you're 3 years old, they make the toddlers wear masks," DeSantis said during remarks on the Parental Rights in Education Act.
Monday, Adams publicly denounced the Florida law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”
Adams called the law “the latest shameful, extremist culture war targeting the LGBTQ+ community,” and encouraged Floridians to move to New York City.
“I have a message for Florida’s LGBTQ+ community – come to a city where you can say and be whoever you want,” Adams said in a statement Monday. He announced a billboard campaign which will launch in Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach, displaying messages that encourage Florida’s residents to move to New York City.
The governor tacked on comment regarding Adams' billboard campaign.
Story continues below.
"Now, they're trying to do billboards, saying 'people, come to Florida,'" he said, appearing to mistakenly say 'Florida,' instead of 'New York.' "No, they will muzzle you through force of government."
Robbie Myers, digital director for DeSantis, confirmed in a tweet that this comment was intended to "respond to New York."
DeSantis had responded to Adams in a press release prior to Tuesday’s press conference, which included the statement: “Mayor Adams is doing Florida a favor. If anyone is so upset about our governor defending parental rights that they want to leave Florida for a crime-ridden dystopia, our state would be better off without them.”
Christina Pushaw, a staffer for DeSantis, called New York City “a dystopian dictatorship,” in a response to Adams on Twitter.
First Coast News spoke with Jacksonville's Phil Perry. He's the president of On The Line Strategy and consults with LGBTQ candidates who are running for office.
He says the billboard are appreciated, but he doesn't think they will lead people to move to New York.
He's focused on changing the laws in Florida by getting those who oppose the governor's efforts elected. "At least here in Jacksonville we are going to stay welcoming and welcome everybody with open arms and we are going to keep fighting the good fight across Florida to make sure that remains the case."
The bill, HB1557, was signed into law by the governor on March 28. It prevents “classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.”
It also requires schools to notify student’s parents if there is a “change in the student’s services or monitoring.” DeSantis has indicated in public statements that this clause will prevent schools from identifying a child by a different name or gender without notifying parents first.
The bill clarifies that this clause does not apply if the child is at risk for abuse or neglect.