Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is set to be honored by a Philadelphia organization that was founded to support Abraham Lincoln—sparking protests from some local leaders.
DeSantis—a Republican whose embrace of right-wing social policies propelled him to the national stage—is set to be honored with the Union League of Philadelphia’s gold medal on Tuesday. The award was once given to Abraham Lincoln, whom the organization was founded to support in 1862 amid the American Civil War.
However, his support for conservative social policies has sparked debate about whether he should receive the award. Several organizations, including the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP, are set to protest the ceremony over his stance on issues including race and LGBTQ rights.
As governor, DeSantis has taken aim at what he views as “woke” culture, supporting laws that would target racial sensitivity training and ban Florida schools from teaching critical race theory—an academic principle that states systemic racism is ingrained in U.S. society and institutions that is not typically taught in public schools.
He most recently made headlines for banning Florida schools from teaching Advanced Placement African American History, with state education department officials arguing the course “lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law.” The move has drawn backlash from civil rights organizations.
Reverend Alyn E. Waller, a community leader leading protests against DeSantis, questioned why the organization would not rescind his award after this policy was announced in remarks first reported by local television news station WPVI-TV.
“This is a disgrace. It is wrong. It is a smack in the face of the people of this city,” Waller said. “How are you going to honor someone in a city that is 44% African American, and he has determined that an AP course on African American history has no educational value? That is not acceptable.”
The award has also faced resistance from within the league, with some members threatening to resign if the award is not rescinded, according to WPVI.
Members have raised issues about his support for individuals who denied President Joe Biden‘s 2020 election victory as well as his policies on LGBTQ content in schools, according to the news station. DeSantis signed a law limiting teachers’ abilities to discuss LGBTQ identities and has faced accusations of trying to silence the community.
Brian McGinnis—the chair of the Independence Business Alliance, Philadelphia’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce, tweeted it is “really beyond disgraceful and disgusting that the Union League is honoring Ron DeSantis today.”
“Ron DeSantis is using the lives and safety of queer people (including and especially LGBTQ+ kids) as a scapegoat to score political points,” he tweeted. “To honor this man is to reward and endorse the most despicable kind of homophobia, transphobia, and racism.”
WCAU-TV reporter Lauren Mayk tweeted a photo showing protesters gathering outside of the Union League Tuesday afternoon.
The league has previously awarded the gold medal to prominent Republican politicians, including former President George W. Bush. Others, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, have received the organization’s silver metal.
Newsweek reached out to The Union League of Philadelphia for comment.