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NYC mayor uses new Florida school law to woo LGBTQ residents to move to New York

"Come to a city where you can say and be whoever you want," Mayor Eric Adams said Monday, blasting the new law as "state-sponsored discrimination."
Mayor Eric Adams watches as the Ukrainian flag is raised in support of the people of Ukraine at Bowling Park in the heart of financial district of New York on March 23, 2022.
Mayor Eric Adams watches as the Ukrainian flag is raised in support of the people of Ukraine at Bowling Park in New York on March 23.Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New York Mayor Eric Adams announced an ad campaign Monday to persuade LGBTQ Floridians 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 news 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," he 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 began Monday and will run through May 29, will include rainbow-studded digital billboards and a social media push, the mayor's office said. It targets 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 said.

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 3 classrooms,” DeSantis said at the bill signing, adding that 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 allegations of violations when the bill goes into effect July 1.

The Florida measure, which was introduced in January, has spurred months of outcry across the country, with Hollywood actors, corporate executives and the White House all weighing in against it.

The bill’s sponsors have repeatedly stressed that the measure wouldn’t 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 in House and Senate debate.

Opponents say the legislation unfairly targets the LGBTQ community and that its “broad and vague” language would prevent youths and teachers from openly talking about themselves and their families. They also argue that the law could open districts to lawsuits from parents who believe any conversation about LGBTQ people or issues is inappropriate.

Last week, more than a dozen students, parents, educators and advocates filed a federal lawsuit against DeSantis and the state Board of Education, alleging that the law would “stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ people in Florida’s public schools.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams Meets With LGBTQ+ Advocates
New York Mayor Eric Adams; Elisa Crespo, the executive director of the NEW Pride Agenda; and Kevin Jennings, the CEO of Lambda Legal and founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, announce the launch of digital billboards and creative ads supporting the LGBTQ community Monday in New York.Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images

DeSantis' office didn’t respond to a request for comment about the New York City campaign. His press secretary, Christina Pushaw, mocked the initiative on Twitter.

"If anyone is so opposed to @GovRonDeSantis defending parental rights that they leave for a crime-ridden dystopia, Florida will be better off without them," she wrote.

Adams, a vocal LGBTQ ally who has been criticized for naming appointees with histories of homophobic comments in his first three months in office, said private companies were paying for the ad content and the campaign and that taxpayers weren’t paying anything for the initiative.

LGBTQ activist Allen Roskoff applauded Adams' effort at the news conference Monday, and he urged Adams 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. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona met with LGBTQ students and parents in Florida. He issued a statement saying the Education Department would “monitor” the law upon its implementation and “evaluate whether it violates federal civil rights law.”

Legislators in several other states — including Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas and Indiana — are weighing similar measures. 

Last year, DeSantis tried to woo New Yorkers to Florida, spearheading a campaign to offer $5,000 bonuses to lure New York Police Department and other police officers who were subject to vaccination mandates or other mistreatment, as he put it, to move to Florida. "We’re proud in Florida of being a state where people who are in uniform know they’re appreciated,” he said then.