If the devil went down to Georgia, that means Georgia is lower than Hell. Where exactly does that leave my home state of Florida?
From an outsider's perspective, there's always been two Floridas. The first is a magical place of amusement parks and retired northerners... a Good Times Florida of people looking to kick back and go out in style. The latter is that of Florida Man: the heat-baked, economically disparaged, poorly educated and religiously manipulated swamp person. Florida Man is back in the news with the Florida Man Challenge. Greatest headlines include him (it's almost always a "him") taking his gator on a beer run, planting cameras in Airbnb's, using tacos as ID after his car catches fire at Taco Bell, and of course vaping his buddy's semen. The state is so up to its neck in Florida Men that even they've even made their way into the Senate where a new bill, that among many other things, will strip local governments of LGBTQI+ protections in housing and employment.
The language sounds innocuous: House Bill 3 "...prohibits local government from imposing additional licensing requirements" but it means that the power of regulation will be taken away from local communities. It's yet another example of how the right contradicts their core values (in this case: smaller central government, community-power) in favor of financial inequality heralded by bigoted dog-whistles. HB3 picked up steam under the predictable Republican battle cry for de-regulation. Its sponsor Rep. Michael Grant (R) cites a ban in Key West on sunscreens containing chemicals that harm the local reef system. His argument seems to be that Key West is attempting to use environmentalism as thin cover for price gouging. Ironically, many parts of Florida need the power of local regulation to correct the complex issues surrounding actual price gouging (ex: gas or survival supplies in vulnerable areas during hurricane season).
Florida Man doesn't doesn't think of this HB3 as an attack on queer rights, per se. The way he sees it, people voting progressively are either minorities or "...aren't really from here (wink)". Florida is currently a red state and this bill is an overwhelming attack on the blue bubbles. House Bill 3 will block every city and county government from regulating almost anything in their own neighborhoods. Whether it's environmental legislation to prevent disasters like Red Tide, protecting the poor or even civil rights safeguards in the home/work spaces, Florida Man wants to reserve said power exclusively for the state (at least while government at the state level is currently red).
HB3 leaves the possibility open for a far right wet dream: they get to destroy the environment and screw over the poor while simultaneously flying a homophobic flag! Florida Man lives in constant fear of otherness, but is smarter than many give credit. He can employ sufficient cognitive dissonance to wrap said fear up in a nice warm blanket of Godliness, half-baked "fiscal responsibility" or even anti-vaccination and flat Earth propaganda. I grew up in Florida knowing that LGBTQ people (or as my friends at home called them, "faggots") had no protections under discrimination laws. Upon coming out I was instructed to keep my head down and my voice even lower. If a boss or landlord cited a religious conflict with my "lifestyle," I'd be out on the street. Cities like Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and even Tallahassee (roughly 55% of the state's population) have local anti-discrimination ordinances currently in peril.
Resolutions following the state's most notorious hate crimes/gun violence/climate disasters invariably end up in the Thoughts and Prayers box. For those of you not from the American South, I'll break it down: according to Southern etiquette, if you have nothing nice to say, appropriate response options include "Bless your heart" or "I'll pray for you." The New York translation is "Go fuck yourself, sweetheart." Sending thoughts and prayers is a very Southern way of saying to go eat shit. The colloquial term for this activity is called grin-fucking (see attached image of U.S. Senator Rick Scott for visual reference).
Even though things are looking bleak with HB3, there is always way to resist. One option is for us to consider changing our weapon. Florida Man values one thing above all else: Religious Freedom(tm). Florida is one of 21 states that have passed Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, giving peoples' imaginary friends more legal protections than the lives of gay, bi and especially trans human beings. My proposal is that we come together and register a legal religion (it's easy!) that mandates being queer as the founding tenet of the dogma. We can claim the ethical high ground by saying it's for the sake of conserving our planet while also making it more fashionable. It's literally only seven steps to form an official religion. To officiate a wedding this spring I became ordained as a minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It's possible that we can even branch out from that existing church and fast track the necessary fundraising, marketing and (usually) genocide to get the organization mainstream. In just a few short decades, BOOM: queers can have rights!
I mean, it's either that or encouraging everyone to vote for better representatives. Specifically, representatives who will push the Equality Act on the federal level.
MAX EMERSON is a writer and director using social media to produce progressive media projects.