Joe Harding, a Republican who serves in the Florida House of Representatives and best known as the architect behind Florida's highly controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill, found himself making headlines for a different reason after his house in Ocala, Florida was hit by a tornado that touched down over the weekend.
The house suffered damage but Harding's family members were not hurt. Harding was not home at the time of the incident.
According to The National Weather Service, the storm had estimated wind speeds of 110 mph. The tornado wreaked havoc on the ground for about 35 minutes, causing at least $12.3 million in property damage in Marion County, according to county property appraiser Jimmy Cowan.
Harding, meanwhile, said he and his family have "so much to be thankful for" expressing relief neither he nor his family were dealt any harm by the violent storm.
Writing on Facebook, he said:
“This message is for those impacted by the tornadoes today in Ocala. Please stay out from under trees, there are many hanging limbs that are often referred to as ‘Widow Makers.'"
“Today was a tough day for all of us. We have so much to be thankful for, material things can be replaced, human life cannot.”
But for many who've criticized Harding in recent weeks since the "Don't Say Gay" bill became a hot topic in the political arena, the tornado might as well have been a case of divine intervention.
Florida’s Republican-sponsored Parental Rights in Education bill, or H.B. 1557, was recently passed by the state's House of Representatives and Senate. The bill, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, aims to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.”
The bill wants to prohibit “a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner” and authorizes parents to “bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates certain provisions of law.”