New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Monday announced an ad campaign aimed at convincing LGBTQ Floridians who are upset about a new law that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to move to the Big Apple.
“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,” Adams said, referring to a recently passed Florida law that prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner” in the state’s public schools.
Adams said at a press conference with LGBTQ advocates and city lawmakers that the measure is the “latest shameful, extremist culture war targeting the LGBTQ+ community” and announced a campaign inviting Floridians to “come to a city where you can say and be whoever you want.”
“We want you here in New York,” the mayor said.
“This is the city of Stonewall. This is the city where we are proud to talk about how you can live in a comfortable setting and not be harassed, not be abused — not only as adults but also as young people,” he said.
The ad campaign, which will include rainbow-studded digital billboards and a social media push, began Monday and will run through May 29, the mayor’s office said. It’s targeting five cities — Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach — and is projected to draw 5 million views. The campaign has been paid for through company donations, Adams told reporters at a news conference.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state measure, titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, into law last month.
“The bill prohibits classroom instruction about sexuality or things like ‘transgender’ in K through three classrooms,” DeSantis said at the bill signing, adding it will ensure “that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.”
Parents will be able to sue school districts for damages or attorney’s fees over alleged violations when the bill goes into effect July 1.
The new Florida law has spurred months of outcry across the nation since its introduction in January, with Hollywood actors, corporate executives and the White House all weighing in against it.
The bill’s sponsors have repeatedly stressed that the measure would not prohibit students from talking about their LGBTQ families or bar classroom discussions about LGBTQ history, including events like the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Instead, the measure would ban the “instruction” of sexual orientation or gender identity, they have said, without providing examples of what that would entail during House and Senate debate.
Opponents say the legislation unfairly targets the LGBTQ community and its “broad and vague“ language would prevent youths and teachers from openly talking about themselves and their families. They also argue the legislation could open districts to lawsuits from parents who believe any conversation about LGBTQ people or issues to be inappropriate.
Last week, a group of more than a dozen students, parents, educators and advocates filed a federal lawsuit against DeSantis and the state’s Board of Education, alleging that the law would “stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ people in Florida’s public schools.”
DeSantis’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the New York City campaign, but his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, mocked the initiative on Twitter.
Adams, a vocal LGBTQ ally who’s been criticized for naming appointees with a history of homophobic comments during his first three months in office, said the ad content and the campaign were being paid for by private companies, and taxpayers were not paying anything for the initiative.
Speaking at the Monday news conference, LGBTQ activist Allen Roskoff applauded Adams’ effort and urged the mayor to hang the posters in every New York City school for Pride Month in June and mandate that LGBTQ history be taught in all the city’s schools.
“Our students in this city still feel threatened and are intimidated and are afraid to come out,” Roskoff said. “In fact, many teachers who are out to their colleagues are afraid to come out to their students.”
“We have a lot of work to do,” he added.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona met with LGBTQ students and parents in Florida and issued a statement saying the Department of Education would “monitor” the law upon its implementation and “evaluate whether it violates federal civil rights law.”
Lawmakers in several other states — including in Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas and Indiana — are weighing measures similar to Florida’s law.
Last year, DeSantis tried wooing New Yorkers to Florida, spearheading a campaign to lure New York Police Department and other police officers who were subject to vaccine mandates or other mistreatment, as he put it, to move to Florida by offering $5,000 bonuses. “We’re proud in Florida of being a state where people who are in uniform know they’re appreciated,” he said then.