DeSantis event at Chelsea Piers faces backlash over LGBTQ rights

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NEW YORK — For the second time this spring, a New York City institution is facing a backlash over a conservative Jewish conference because of one of its featured speakers: Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

In May, the Museum of Jewish Heritage backed out of a tentative rental agreement to host the event. Now Chelsea Piers, which agreed to host the conference this weekend, is being criticized by elected officials and activist groups that say that DeSantis should not speak at a site that has played an important role in New York’s LGBTQ history.

Earlier this year, DeSantis signed legislation that prohibited classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation for some age groups in Florida schools, known by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The event, the Jewish Leadership Conference, was organized by the Tikvah Fund, which said it invited DeSantis to deliver a speech about the vibrancy of Jewish life in Florida.

But when the Museum of Jewish Heritage learned of DeSantis’ participation, its leadership pulled out of the event, telling Tikvah that the legislation was not in line with its values of inclusivity.

On Friday, Chelsea Piers responded to the uproar by saying that it will not cancel the event and that it does not police the views expressed by those who rent its event spaces. Instead, it said it would donate the money it received from the event to “groups that protect LGBTQ+ communities, and foster and amplify productive debates about LGBTQ+ issues.”

A spokesperson for DeSantis declined to address the controversy.

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