Mayor Eric Adams on April 4 announced a new city-sponsored digital billboard and ad campaign running in Florida that denounces the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” legislation recently passed in the Sunshine State. After the bill was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week, Florida’s teachers and students have been forbidden from holding classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The city’s ad campaign consists of five pieces of digital art that will run in five of Florida’s major cities, including Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale. The billboards also call on Floridians who feel persecuted by Don’t Say Gay to come to New York.
“We are going to loudly show our support to say to those who are living in Florida, ‘listen, we want you here in New York, we want you right here in New York City,’” Adams said. “And it’s more than just saying that, it’s also standing up and aligning ourselves with the men and women of the LGBTQ+ community and stating that we are in unison with you and your right to have self identification, your right to live the life that you choose to live without any form of harassment.”
The announcement came after the mayor faced criticism for appointing three officials to his administration with histories of anti-LGBTQ comments earlier this year. Adams came under intense fire in February when he appointed former Councilmember Fernando Cabrera as a senior advisor for the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, Eric Salgado as an assistant commissioner in the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Gilford Monrose to lead the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships. All three are pastors with histories of anti-LGBTQ+ comments.
Hizzoner, speaking at a press conference, said he and some LGBTQ rights activists are moving on from that and will continue to work together.
“This community, they have always turned up the heat on topics that they believe are important. I’ve joined in many of them since my days on the Senate floor fighting for marriage [equality]. And this is not a community that’s going to be silenced if they see something they don’t like, they’ll let you know,” Adams told reporters.
“And so they’ve always said they’re concerned about the hires that we made and we’re gonna continue to move forward. And these are not just citizens, these are personal friends on a fight to deal with the progress in our LGBTQ+ community,” he added.
In response to a reporter’s question, longtime LGBTQ+ advocate Allen Roskoff — one of the leading voices who criticized Adams for appointing the three pastors two months ago — echoed the idea that they’re moving on and will continue working with Adams. But only after taking the opportunity to once again criticize the mayor for the three appointments.
“Of course, we are very disappointed and outraged over the appointments,” Roskoff said. “But we decided to move on and work with the mayor, who we believe made a big mistake in making those appointments. But there’s a lot that we can do together. And we remember the mayor’s history on behalf of the LGBT community. So we’re moving onward.”
However, Roskoff said, he’d like to see Adams take this campaign a step further — by circulating similar positive messages about the LGBTQ+ community in the city’s public schools.
“Our students in the city still feel threatened and intimidated and are afraid to come out,” Roskoff said. “I suggest that all these posters be posted in every school. I suggest that there be a banner as students walk into the schools, ‘saying celebrate LGBTQ Pride.’ And I recommend that there be an assembly in every school with an identical program, perhaps a film, so the students can learn about why we celebrate LGBTQ Pride.”
Roskoff also suggested that LGBTQ+ issues be integrated more comprehensively into public school curriculums. The mayor said he thinks these are good ideas but wouldn’t commit to implementing any of them immediately.
Others on hand at the press conference included out LGBTQ Councilmembers Chi Ossé of Brooklyn and Erik Bottcher of Manhattan as well as Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings.