Joe Harding ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Florida Lawmaker Resigns Over Fraud

The Florida Republican legislature, who sponsored the state’s controversial Don’t Say Gay law, resigned this week after being indicted on allegations of federal fraud related to COVID-19 aid funds.

State Assemblyman Joe Harding resigned Thursday after an indictment was unsealed the day before alleging that the 35-year-old Conservative lawmaker from Ocala provided about $150,000 in COVID-19 relief loans through the Small Business Administration two companies that no longer exist.

In announcing his retirement, Harding, who was elected to office in 2020, said he wanted what was best for Floridians, Politico reported.

“Today I am stepping down from my position for the same two reasons: I love people and I love Florida,” he wrote in a now unavailable Facebook post. “I believe in Floridians and want the best for them, and I believe their leaders need not be burdened with distractions that are mine alone.”

Harding faces up to 35 years in prison for two counts of wire fraud, two counts of involvement in money transactions involving funds obtained from illegal activities, and two counts of false testimony to the Small Business Administration in connection with the Florida Northern District Attorney system, according to the US.

Demonstrators against the controversial "don't say gay" Bill in Florida this spring.
Demonstrators against the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law this spring in Florida.
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Harding famously sponsored the controversial Parents' Rights in Education Act.
Harding famously sponsored the controversial Parents’ Rights in Education Act.
AFP via Getty Images

The former lawmaker pleaded not guilty to the allegations in a hearing on Tuesday, claiming he repaid the loans. He has a hearing date for January 11th.

Harding famously sponsored the state’s controversial Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics derided as the “Don’t Say Gay” law and sparked nationwide protests. The law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in March, bans any classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity up to third grade in public schools. Joe Harding ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Florida Lawmaker Resigns Over Fraud


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