Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill landed on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk on Tuesday after passing in the state Senate and House.
LGBTQ+ activists have been sounding the alarm for months, while President Joe Biden has called the bill “hateful.” Yet the tech industry has been awfully quiet. Though several companies have signed on to a mass petition to condemn the bill, no major tech companies with considerable workforces in the state have issued individual statements or otherwise publicly opposed the legislation that's about to become law.
The bill limits lessons about sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom from kindergarten through the third grade, and allows parents to sue schools that violate it. LGBTQ+ students exhibit significantly higher rates of depression, bullying and suicide, and those opposing the bill said it could further harm students' mental health and also have a chilling effect on both teachers and youth.
Students have staged walkouts over the bill, which has become a nationwide lightning rod. The bill's opponents are looking to companies with any sway over the politics and economy of the state to speak out against the bill before it's signed into law, including in the tech industry.
Florida has become a major tech hub over the past few years, particularly around Miami. Mayor Francis Suarez has aggressively courted major tech companies as well as startups and blockchain entrepreneurs. (He even got into a friendly beef with New York City Mayor Eric Adams last November over who loved bitcoin more, tweeting that he looked forward to having a "friendly competition in making our respective cities a crypto capital.")
Yet despite the tech industry's growing presence in the state and its general perception as socially liberal, companies have largely remained silent about the bill. The only way tech companies have spoken out about the bill is by signing a petition organized by the Human Rights Campaign, which includes signatures from over 150 companies. The petition, though, targets anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in general, not Florida’s bill specifically.
“Laws that would affect access to medical care for transgender people, parental rights, social and family services, student sports, or access to public facilities such as restrooms, unnecessarily and uncharitably single out already marginalized groups for additional disadvantage,” the petition reads.
Tech companies that have signed the petition and have offices in Florida include Accenture, Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Dell, Equinix, Google, IBM, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, T-Mobile, Twitter and Uber. Protocol reached out to each of the companies for additional comment about whether they opposed the bill. The only company to respond by publication was Meta, which directed Protocol back to the above petition.
Tech companies aren't the only ones to come under fire for failing to speak out about the bill. Homegrown corporate behemoth Disney has not only not said anything about the bill; it's given political donations to supporters of the bill in Florida's statehouse. The company's employees and Abigail Disney, Walt Disney's grandniece, have put the company on blast. (Disney CEO Bob Chapek eventually put out a memo explaining the company's position, only to receive more withering criticism from its workers.)
The legislation still needs the governor's signature to become law and take effect in July. DeSantis is likely to sign the bill, and has supported the similar "Stop WOKE Act," a bill that limits talking about race in school and at work, as well as other anti-LGBTQ+ measures.