TAMPA, Fla. — Florida drivers may notice new billboards for the next several weeks criticizing the state's "Parental Rights in Education" law with a new state motto: Welcome to Florida, the
Sunshine "Don't Say Gay or Trans" State.
LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, last week announced it would place the billboards near airports and interstate highways in an effort to draw attention to the recently signed law that bars educators from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade.
School districts may still choose to ban topics of sexual orientation or gender identity beyond third grade if leaders deem them not to be age or developmentally appropriate.
The "Parental Rights" law has been dubbed by critics like HRC as "Don't Say Gay" because it was "designed to silence teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people," the organization said in a news release. Gov. Ron DeSantis and proponents have said the law was necessary to give parents a right to be involved in their education.
"Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law is outrageous and discriminatory. It needs to be repealed immediately. This billboard campaign is designed to make people confront what this terrible law really does: censor and silence educators and isolate LGBTQ+ students and their families," said Joni Madison, interim president of HRC said in a statement, in part.
The billboards are slated to be placed in the following locations for the next four weeks:
- E. Colonial Dr (SR50) West of SR408
- Lee Road West of N. Orlando Ave.
- SR 436 West of Pearl Lake Causeway
- Capitol Circle SE North of Apache Parkway
- N. Monroe St. North of E. Bradford Rd.
- Capitol Circle NE South of Centerville Rd.
- Westbound Interstate 4 between Ybor City and the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater
In addition to denouncing the legislation, HRC said it condemns the Florida Department of Health guidelines issued last week that advises against providing gender-affirming care for transgender children and teens.
Additional billboards are planned for South Florida, as well.
"In Florida, we will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination," Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference at the bill's signing.
He indicated his support for the legislation in the weeks prior to signing it.
"At the end of the day, you know, my goal is to educate kids on the subjects —math, reading, science — all the things that are so important," the governor said during a February press conference. "I don’t want the schools to kind of be a playground for ideological disputes or to try to inject."
Despite repeated denials the bill singles out LGBTQ individuals, Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, admitted as much on the Senate floor saying the bill was a product of his own personal concerns with so many children today coming out as gay – something he suggested was part of a trend to get popular.
"We are in a trending posture right now," said Baxley, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill. "There really is a dynamic of concern of how much of this are genuine type of experiences and how many of them are just kids trying on different kinds of things they hear about and different kinds of identities."
10 Tampa Bay's Josh Sidorowicz contributed to this report.