Steamrolling hate-fueled legislation through Tallahassee isn’t enough for supporters of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Now they’re directly attacking a student who’s speaking out against their agenda.
Will Larkins has led student protests against the recently signed “Don’t Say Gay” law at Winter Park High School. Hundreds of his fellow classmates support his efforts. Adults, however, are another story.
“Recently, I have received what feels like endless threats, homophobia, and people calling me a groomer/pedophile,” he tweeted. “I’m 17 and seeing what people say about me is scary. This is a direct result of DeSantis’ homophobic rhetoric.”
It seems the same people who want to “protect” students from any LGBT topic being discussed in schools also think it’s fine to bully those same students on social media. He posted screenshots of comments calling him an assortment of vile terms.
“The amount of hate I get over social media is disturbing. Complete adults calling me a predator for talking about my experience growing up gay, homophobia, and mental health struggles,” he said. “People have called me a creep, a predator, a groomer, and a pedophile since I was in early middle school. DeSantis is making that worse for us. Who’s sexualizing children when a 12-year-old is called a pedophile because they happen to be gay?”
At one point, Larkin was suspended by his school not for organizing the walkouts, but for handing out Pride flags. He has said legislation like “Don’t Say Gay” is designed to kill queer kids. Studies continue to show LGBT youth are much likelier to attempt suicide.
In addition to attacking students, DeSantis and his henchmen are demanding obedience from corporations. Once Disney came out against the bill, albeit after it passed, they turned their vitriol on the Mouse. Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, said now is the time to dig in.
“If well-resourced companies fear [the governor’s] wrath if they stand up for the safety of their employees’ families, imagine how much more vulnerable are ordinary Floridians to his abuse of power.”
She also pointed out that bullies feed on fear.
“Here’s the thing about bullies: if you back down they get stronger. This is a gut-check moment for every corporation, every institution, and every individual. You stand with the bully or you stand up to him."
The law is already being challenged in federal court. A lawsuit claims it violates federal law and Title IX. The judge assigned to the case once argued against marriage equality in Florida. The case will likely take years to wend its way through the judicial system. Opponents of the bill hope to get an injunction preventing it from being enforced while the case is being litigated.