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FL Political Activist Targets ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Author Joe Harding

Patch 12/28/2022 Tiffany Razzano
Former state Rep. Joe Harding, who authored FL’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, resigned earlier this month after being accused of wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes. © AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File Former state Rep. Joe Harding, who authored FL’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, resigned earlier this month after being accused of wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes.

DEERFIELD BEACH, FL — In his latest initiative, Chaz Stevens, a self-described “political stunt activist” from Deerfield Beach, is targeting the lawmaker who authored the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Rep. Joe Harding resigned from his seat earlier this month after federal charges accused him of wire fraud and money laundering related to claims that he applied for and accepted fraudulent Small Business Association loans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harding was behind House Bill 1557 – Parental Rights in Education, which grabbed headlines this past year. Referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its critics, the new law limits how gender identity and sexual orientation are discussed in the state's public-school classrooms. Instruction on these topics is prohibited in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms and limited for older students. The law went into effect earlier this year.

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Now, Stevens, a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and advocate for equal rights, has set his sights on Harding following the former state representative’s arrest.

He’s designed a 7-foot-tall and 5-foot-wide selfie station featuring a picture of Harding with the Dr. Frank-N-Furter character from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The words “Don’t Say Jail” will be written on the attention-grabbing display.

“We figure our display is a funny and powerful way to show support for queer folk everywhere,” Stevens wrote on his GoFundMe page for the project.

He hopes to raise $10,000 to build the selfie stations.

He told Patch, “My game plan is this: The same way for a year the gay community had to bite their tongue every time they heard ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ I want to do the same thing with Harding. Flip the script. ‘Don’t Say Jail.’ I want to remind people (about) who is passing these reprehensible edicts and the value systems of these people.”

Stevens is reaching out to officials in some of Florida’s most LGBTQ-friendly cities, including Lake Worth, Orlando, Key West and St. Petersburg, and asking them to consider installing one of these selfie stations.

It’s been a busy year for the activist, who has worked on several initiatives. This fall, he targeted the state of Texas with his “Messin’ with Texas” campaign. He raised money to print and send posters that read, “In God we trust,” written in Arabic to Lone Star State public schools in the wake of a new state law there that requires schools to display a poster reading, “In God we trust,” if it’s donated to the school or purchased using private donations.

This spring, he moved to ban the Bible in schools after the Florida Department of Education's banned 54 math textbooks for referencing what it considers prohibited topics — critical race theory, Common Core and social-emotional learning — and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1467 into law, giving parents more say in their school district’s instructional materials, library books and textbooks.

Stevens also sought to lead a Satanic prayer at Florida high school football games after the U.S. Supreme Court backed a Washington coach’s right to pray at the 50-yard line.

He’s been at these types of stunts for years. In 2013, after a Nativity was put on display at the state Capitol building, his holiday exhibit representing Festivus — a fake holiday from the 1990s sitcom “Seinfeld” — was allowed in Tallahassee.

Stevens built the 6-foot Festivus pole using empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and PVC pipe, according to NPR. The made-up holiday also calls for people to celebrate with an “airing of grievances,” where they share their disappointments and issues from the previous year.

More recently, last December, he created another non-traditional holiday display in the state Capitol rotunda — cardboard cutouts of Dr. Anthony Fauci dressed as Santa Claus and Fox News show host Tucker Carlson dressed as the grim reaper.

“My message is always wrapped in humor. It makes me laugh and I do some beautiful art. It’s all wrapped in my art,” he said. “My art is wrapped in activism, and it makes me happy.”

The article FL Political Activist Targets ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Author Joe Harding appeared first on Miami Patch.

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