Ex-Florida Lawmaker Who Sponsored ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Pleads Guilty in Covid Fraud Case
Former Republican Florida state Rep. Joseph Harding, who sponsored the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with Covid relief fraud, according to a Department of Justice press release.
Harding illegally obtained more than $150,000 in pandemic loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) by lying on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan for one of his dormant business entities, per the department. Prosecutors stated that the former Florida lawmaker conducted three monetary transactions, each involving more than $10,000 in fraudulently obtained funds: a transfer to his joint bank account, a payment to his credit card, and a transfer into a bank account of a third-party business entity.
The Republican resigned from the Florida House in December, a day after his indictment was announced by federal prosecutors. A hearing is scheduled for July 25. He faces up to 35 years in prison.
Harding was first elected to the Florida House in 2020, and was one of the chief architects behind the Parental Rights in Education Act, which bars educators from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation in classrooms up until third grade. The legislation, which was branded the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and signed into law last year by Governor Ron DeSantis, caused a national uproar. The Trevor Project condemned the bill saying the law erases “LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.”