The Sunshine State just got a little darker.
New billboards are greeting Florida visitors to “the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ state.”
On Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign launched an ad campaign designed to remind anyone coming into Florida in search of blue skies and sunny days that the reality for LGBTQ kids in the state can be cold, gloomy and oppressive.
Several billboards in Tallahassee, Tampa and Orlando are now featuring a new twist on an old “Welcome to Florida” slogan, replacing the state’s nickname “the Sunshine State” with Florida’s widely criticized “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
The bill, slammed as “hateful” by critics, forbids discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in primary schools’ classrooms, and it was signed into law by the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, on March 28.
According to the HRC, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, the billboards are being placed in areas with high visibility and traffic, including near airports and along large interstate highways, and they seek to “raise public awareness around the ways Florida’s image has been irreversibly damaged” by the law.
“Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law is outrageous and discriminatory. It needs to be repealed immediately,” Joni Madison, HRC interim president said in a statement shared with the Daily News.
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“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,” she added.
The campaign, which also includes online digital ads, is set to run for the next four weeks.
Seven billboards are already in place – one in Tampa, three in Tallahasse and three in the Orlando area. The group said that more billboards will go up in South Florida “in the next few days.”
“Florida cannot be considered the ‘Sunshine State’ when Governor Ron DeSantis is putting so many of its constituents in harm’s way,” Madison said.
“Governor DeSantis can try to tell teachers what they can teach, can try to tell kids what they can read, and can try to tell students what they can learn—but he cannot tell LGBTQ+ people who we can be,” she added. “LGBTQ+ people are teachers, are parents, and yes, are students too — and we are going to keep fighting until this law is off the books.”