April 11, 2022 Updated 5:51 PM. ET
TALLAHASSEE (FCV) – The sponsor of the Parental Rights in Education law received more than $70,000 in campaign contributions for his state representative re-election campaign just in the month of March.
State Representative Joe Harding said the influx of contributions shows the support parents across the country have for the new law that bans gender and sexual identity from being instructed in grades K-3.
Critics have falsely dubbed the act as the “don’t say gay bill.”
“They would tell us that what we were doing was so horrific and was going to hurt all these people,” Harding explained. “I think in the end what has really happened is that parents feel like ‘how dare you be told that you’re trying to hurt people when you’re really trying to protect kids.’”
Harding said his campaign received more than 3,700 contributions with an average of $19 per donation. The smaller donations tell him there is grassroots support for the law.
About 64 percent of the contributions came from out of state with a lot of them flooding in from California, New York, and Hawaii. He was surprised to see so many people contributing to his re-election campaign. In fact, Harding was not allowed to begin fundraising until the legislature wrapped up its session in mid-March.
“These are folks that are probably mostly parents who have constantly felt like they are under attack,” Harding said. “They see someone fighting for us and our rights as parents.”
Critics argued that the law takes away free speech in schools. President Joe Biden called the bill “hateful” on twitter.
Others, like Florida Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Fried, called it “outrageous” and “state-sanctioned hatred and censorship.”
Disney also waged war on the law.
“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts,” the company said in a statement.
Harding said he has received “disgusting” and “shocking” messages online since proposing the legislation. Some people have said that they hope he is “taken out.”
“Regardless of the bullying and the lies and all the craziness I’ve had to deal with, I would do it every day of the week, all over again, if it was something as important as fighting for parental rights,” Harding said.
He is running for re-election in District 24 and said he would be shocked if there was not a Democratic opponent.
“I’m definitely not sleeping at the wheel, that’s for sure,” he said.
In the meantime, Harding said he will keep an eye out for how effective the Parental Rights in Education law will be in schools and could propose future changes.
“I think Florida is unique because we have state standards that I believe protect this type of behavior from happening from the fourth grade and beyond,” he explained. “But if I find that our bill is not effective in eliminating other grades as well, I would be happy to look at expanding it.”
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