Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on February 24. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo
March 28 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into a law a controversial measure restricting what can be taught in classrooms on gender identity or sexual orientation, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics.
Surrounded by the bill's backers at the Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, Fla., DeSantis signed House Bill 1557, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education bill.
The new law prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity and also bars educators from discouraging or prohibiting "parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student's mental, emotional, or physical well-being."
Opponents argue it interferes with the rights of students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, to speak out about who they are, and potentially harms them by outing them as LGBTQ to parents under a notification provision.
The governor told reporters the measure it is meant to protect the rights of parents to shield their children from "clearly inappropriate" instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
DeSantis claimed six school districts in Florida -- including the state's largest -- had policies that cut parents out of decisions regarding what their children are taught on the subjects.
"In Leon County, Florida, a school excluded parents from conversations about a students 'gender transition,' a situation for which the district's superintendent has apologized for and admitted should never have occurred," he said.
The measure is bitterly opposed by LGBTQ+ advocates, student groups, President Joe Biden, Democratic lawmakers, the Walt Disney Company and many entertainment figures.
Disney, one of the largest employers in the state, issued a statement following the bill signing vowing to help repeal the legislation.
"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," the 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 "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.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."
The entertainment giant's public stance came after an employee walkout in protest of CEO Bob Chapek's original low-key stance on the bill.
At Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, host Wanda Sykes took aim at the "Don't Say Gay" bill, saying, "We're going to have a great night tonight -- and for you people in Florida, we're going to have a gay night," as co-hosts Amy Schumer and Regina Hall repeatedly sang the word "gay" as a chorus.
DeSantis, however, brushed off the criticism during the bill signing.
"I don't care what corporate media outlets say, I don't care what Hollywood says, I don't care what big corporations say, here I stand. I'm not backing down," he declared.