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7 Florida Bills That Threaten LGBTQ+ Rights Right Now
"Don't Say Gay" Is Only Part of Florida's Push Against Queer People
It's been one year since Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law the state's so-called "don't say gay" bill. A year later, Florida kicked off a legislative session this month where Republican super-majorities seem determined to put more anti-LGBTQ+ laws on the books. With DeSantis running a cultural war against wokeness, trans youth, medical care, and even children’s books all appear under threat. Here’s the worst legislation already filed in the Sunshine State. The session lasts 60 days starting from March 7.
Which hateful bills will make it to the Governor’s desk?
Transgender Youth Care
Despite claims for years of championing parents’ rights, Republican lawmakers this year intend to deem it as abuse for parents to pursue medical care for trans youth. Florida Rep. Randy Fine filed HB 1421, legislation that would prohibit gender clinical interventions for minors. “The butchering of children will be illegal in Florida,” Fine tweeted.
Sen. Clay Yarborough filed a Senate version of the bill, SB 254, which has already been endorsed by legislative leadership. “As lawmakers, we have to draw the line when drastic, life-altering gender dysphoria therapies and surgeries are mutilating young children,” he said.
Lakey Love, of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation, said the legislation goes further than even an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in declaring medical care and supportive parenting as abuse. “It just criminalizes trans existence,” they said.
Denying Coverage for Trans Minors
The same legislation would also prohibit insurance from covering any type of gender-affirming surgery for any age. “Florida citizens will not be obligated to pay for the sexual mutilation of adults, and those tricked into this evil will have 30 years to sue those who misled them,” Fine wrote.
Gender-affirming surgery is almost never performed on anyone under 18.
The legislation also goes as far as to forbid a change in gender from that originally assigned on birth certificates for individuals of any age.
“This cruel bill is a transgender ban. It goes beyond denying us medical freedom to policing who we can be,” said Nikole Parker, Director of Transgender Equality at Equality Florida. “Republican leadership is saying that from the moment of birth, you should not — and in important ways cannot — be recognized by anything other than your genitals.
Don’t Say Gay Expansion
After a year of slamming critics for suggesting the “don’t say gay” bill extends past third grade, a Florida lawmaker now wants to ensure that it, in fact, does. Florida Rep. Adam Anderson filed HB 1223, an expansion of last year’s so-called “parental rights” law. While the new law requires age-appropriate handling of all matters regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, it currently forbids those topics be included in any instruction in kindergarten through third grade. Anderson wants the full ban to run from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
This has outraged critics who saw the law passed in 2022 as problematic already. ““The consequences of Florida’s #DontSayGay law can be seen everywhere, and our most vulnerable kids are paying the price,” said former Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.
But the bill now has a Senate companion, SB 1320, again filed by Yarborough. “Teachers should be able to spend their time focusing on skills that help a child succeed in life, not delving into every social issue or being forced to use language that would violate their personal convictions,” the Florida Senator said.
In a separate proposal, the DeSantis administration is seeking to expand the rule to all grade levels.
SB 1320 doesn’t just limit LGBTQ topics in classrooms. It prohibits the use of preferred pronouns for students and teachers, and even for employees and contractors working with public schools. The legislation would redefine the word “sex” in Florida statutes as “the classification of a human person as being either male or female based on the organization of the body of such person for a specific reproductive role, as indicated by the person’s sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, and internal and external genitalia present at birth.”
While conservatives for years have defended teachers whose jobs are threatened if they refuse to use preferred pronouns, the legislation goes a step farther and requires schools to only use pronouns corresponding to that strict new definition. Students may not provide preferred pronouns, and staff who use different pronouns than those assigned at birth, whether referring to themselves or students, would put their own employment in jeopardy.
Months after DeSantis threatened business licenses for venues hosting “A Drag Queen Christmas,” Republicans in the Florida Senate and House filed bills that would authorize the state to fine, suspend or revoke altogether the licenses for anyone with live adult entertainment that “depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, or lewd exposure.”
Yarborough, the Senate sponsor for a host of anti-LGBTQ bills this year, filed SB 1438. He said Florida has a responsibility to protect children from content the state deems “patently offensive to prevailing standards in our communities.”
“Whether it is a business that knowingly admits children to view performances meant for an adult audience, or schools that allow pornographic instructional materials that promote promiscuity,” he said, “we must take a strong stand for child safety and against a troubling social agenda that seeks to indoctrinate young children and replace the role of parents.”
Fine will run the House bill, HB 1423. The House Republican notably tried to shut down a Drag Queen Story Hour on the Space Coast last year.
The Florida Legislature also wants to police bathroom use with legislative that feels like a throwback to North Carolina in 2016. Florida Sen. Erin Grall filed SB 1674 to mandate exclusive of restrooms based on gender assigned at birth, and could impose fines of $10,000 to those to willfully enter restrooms for the “opposite sex.” Her bill calls for gender to be based exclusively on whether bodies produce eggs or sperm.
The bill provides exceptions for adults chaperoning children and for police and emergency workers. Florida Rep. Rachel Plakon HB 1521, a companion bill in the Florida House, just before the start of the legislative session. Her bill also limits access to domestic violence facilities based on gender, and requires gender-segregated restrooms to be available at jails as well.
Florida state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia also filed legislation, dubbed the “Reverse Woke Act,” imposing a requirement that any employer whose benefits cover gender reassignment surgery also be required to fully cover reverse gender dysphoria treatments. If SB 952 became law, that requirement would land on employers regardless of the cost and whether de-transitioning care is provided in another state, and it would apply regardless of whether an employee still worked at a company. Rep. Taylor Yarkosky will carry the House version, HB 1265.
“Woke businesses need to be held accountable when offering to pay for gender-affirming surgeries in other states, such as California, because they are nothing more than political decisions masquerading as healthcare and human resource decisions,” Ingoglia said.
While detransitioning procedures remain extremely rare, critics suspect the true intent of the bill is to dissuade businesses from covering gender affirming care in the first place. “Coverage for detransition under a broader gender dysphoria diagnosis isn't inherently bad and I think should be covered,” tweeted Harvard Law instructor and legal expert Alejandra Caraballo. “The problem is that they are making this a massive unquantifiable liability for employers and insurance companies because the liability risk is not knowable.”