(As originally published with photo gallery and announcement video, Mon, April 4th 2022, 4:04 PM EDT)
NEW YORK (WPEC) — “With this new creative campaign, New York City is making a direct call to Floridians who are under attack.”
With those words — and a set of five billboards in five Florida cities — the Big Apple is taking on Florida and the subject matter is the controversial school law Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last week.
The city is using a digital billboard campaign to lure Floridians unhappy with the Sunshine State’s law – called “Parental Rights in Education” but dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay” – to New York.
In a news conference on Monday, Mayor Eric Adams said the billboards supporting LGBTQ visibility will be displayed in five major markets in Florida, including West Palm Beach.
”I have a message for Florida’s LGBTQ+ community — come to a city where you can say and be whoever you want,” Adams said. “Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is the latest shameful, extremist culture war targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Today, we say to the families living in fear of this state-sponsored discrimination that you will always have a home in New York City.”
Last Monday, DeSantis signed a bill into law that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
The legislation states, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Adams called the Florida law “a targeted attack on the LGBTQ+ population.”
“New York City’s response is to double down on its commitment to preserving the right to free speech and building a city that welcomes everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” he added.
The bill would also prohibit schools from withholding information about a student’s mental or physical well-being from parents, which critics say would “out” students, plus let parents sue schools for withholding that information.
Last Wednesday, the law was challenged in federal court and Thursday, DeSantis said, “I don’t think any of the legal claims have merit.” His reasoning was, “You can’t say that anyone has been injured by it because it has not actually been put into effect.”
The law is set to take effect July 1 and, “We are going to defend this vigorously,” the governor promised, noting the law won’t regulate student speech.
The billboards will be shown for eight weeks, from April 4 through May 29, and also appear in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and on social media.
Last week, WPEC News reported on a separate billboard campaign with the words “Say Gay” to protest the law.
According to New York City Department of Education Chancellor David C. Banks, “From what we teach, to how we care for young people, we create schools that affirm and lift up the students and honor who they are. Children bring the totality of who they are into our classrooms, and the cruel actions being taken across this country to attack LGBTQ+ children is contrary to everything we believe in as educators.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.