DeSantis calls Florida a 'citadel of freedom' in Iowa speech celebrating the state's book and pronoun bans

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters.Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at an event for Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra on Saturday.

  • The event took place the same weekend former President Donald Trump was in the state.

  • DeSantis touted Florida's protection of "freedom" as the state moves to ban diversity programs in schools.

Calling Florida a "refuge of sanity," Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday people can't stop moving to the state because of its track record as a "citadel of freedom."

In the same speech, DeSantis proudly spoke of his administration's track record of pushing for books to be removed from schools, eliminating diversity programs, ousting critics from office, and moving toward banning teachers from sharing their preferred pronouns.

DeSantis — who is expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign at any moment — attended the Saturday event in support Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra. Former President Donald Trump, who is running again in 2024 as a Republican, is also planning a large outdoor rally in Des Moines, Iowa later in the day.

In his speech, DeSantis pointed to rankings released by US News & World Report on May 2, which places Florida at #1 in education based on graduation rates. DeSantis, said he's "very proud" that Florida also ranks in first place for parental involvement in education.

"We're very proud of that," he said. "But none of that would have been possible had we not stood up when it counted."

On May 3, Florida passed two bills that ban college diversity programs and make it illegal to require students or teachers to use pronouns that do not align with someone's assigned sex at birth.

DeSantis, who will soon sign them into law, said the legislation was designed to "nix the pronoun Olympics in schools."

"We're not doing the pronoun stuff," DeSantis said. "Your teacher can't make you list pronouns. We're just not doing it."

Research has shown that using incorrect pronouns or misgendering transgender people can have harmful effects on their mental health. According to a survey from The Trevor Project, More than 40% of LGBTQ youth said they considered suicide in the last year, and that anti-LGBTQ laws were making their mental health worse.

Moms for Liberty, which originated in Florida, is a conservative parent group that has led the charge nationally in the push to remove books from schools with LGBTQ+ themes. The group has pushed to have its members elected to local school boards. Last month, the state Department of Education tried to oust a superintendent critical of DeSantis after the group sent him a letter about the official.

DeSantis also touted his habit of removing government officials who are critical of him or disagree with his political views from office in his speech on Saturday.

DeSantis bragged about ousting elected Tampa prosecutor Andrew Warren in August 2022 after Warren said he would not enforce the state's restrictions on abortion on gender-affirming care.

"I removed him from his position," he said. "He is gone and that's the type of accountability we need."

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