Except for your alligators, hurricanes, and the unfortunate role you played in George W. Bush’s ascension to the White House (remember that? Such kinder, gentler times), we knew Florida as a relatively docile state — one of our country’s most prolific playlands.
You were once the land of vitamin C, Disney, NASCAR, and spring breakers. With all that sunshine, Florida has long been considered a prime vacation destination, especially for those who might want to tan their testicles, a phenomenon that has recently and regrettably entered our collective conscious.
The greatest threat your state posed was the high possibility that a pedestrian might be run over by a nearsighted, blue-haired, snowbird retiree in a golf cart on her way to a Mah Jong tournament.
Now? Now, Florida Governor Ron “TrumpLite” DeSantis has gone full-blown Goofy.
You know, noted the recent legislation, HB 1557, and dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It was passed and signed into law by DeSantis in late March.
Even though its language says absolutely nothing specific about gay, LGBTQ, or homosexuality, its intent is unmistakable. Capsulized into a single paragraph from its full seven-page length, it reads: “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 following state standards.”
I have no children — that I know of. (A feebly old joke, granted, but it still works. Thanks for indulging me.) But truth be told, I would not want my hypothetical child — wise beyond her years, talented, and altogether a joy to be around though she inevitably would be — to be engaged by their kindergarten teacher in a lively discussion about gender or gender roles — especially if those gender roles were presented in a stereotypical 1950s, MAGA-Esque fever-dream, a woman’s place is in the home and a man’s place is wherever the hell he wants to be framework.
Still, the spirit of the bill is lethal. The esteemed Trevor Project, the nonprofit watchdog group that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth, condemned the signing of the bill, saying it “erases LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.”
Late-night comedians, evangelists, and activists on both sides of the issue were quick to react to DeSantis’ edict. Perhaps the loudest voice in this particular room came from the Walt Disney Company, parent to Disney World in Orlando, the state’s largest generator of tourist dollars.
After an initial misstep of support for the spurious bill from its chief executive officer Bob Chapek, Disney came out hard against it, stating that “Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” their statement reads. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”
Gov. DeSantis retaliated against Disney’s live and let live, it’s a small world after all attitude with a vengeance. To be honest, I don’t completely understand all the ins and outs of it. It’s something about Florida citizens now having to pay $1 billion more in taxes for Disney World’s infrastructure. Don’t quote me, but trust me: It’s a mess.
Remember the good ol’ days when just about our only concern about Florida was when self-proclaimed orange juice queen Anita Bryant began spouting her anti-gay diatribe? That did not end well for either Bryant or Florida. In fact, ask nearly anyone born after Y2K about her, and they will most likely reply: “Anita who?”
The same, hopefully, will say about DeSantis. Even better, let’s turn to Sophia Petrillo, our favorite Golden Girl, for her thoughts on the matter. If she were still alive today, Dorothy’s mom would likely mince no words in sharing one of her often-expressed quips of derision: “This man is a scuzzball.”
Scuzzball or not, DeSantis and his far-right cohorts are not doing their constituents any favors, regardless of their sexuality or gender expression, with their recent actions. Let’s hope Florida voters remember this when the midterm elections roll around.
Hopefully, fellow scuzzball Texas Governor Greg Abbott might pay attention.