The Florida House passed a litany of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation on Wednesday. These bills could prohibit gender-affirming care for children, punish businesses letting minors watch drag shows, and treat transgender people peeing in the wrong bathroom as criminals.
While lawmakers insisted none of the bills targeted queer people specifically, all sparked fears and concern within the community in the Sunshine State.
Florida Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican who openly said he supports erasingLGBTQ people, said his real hope in legislation is protecting children.
“We heard that this bill is about the right to decide what is appropriate for your child. I got news for parents. You don't have that right today,” he said. “You can't decide to not send your kid to school. You can't decide to starve them. You can't send your kid to an NC-17 movie, for all those folks who said there's no standards in the movie business. There's all kinds of decisions. There's all sorts of guardrails that the government has put in.”
He sponsored a bill targeting venues that admit minors into shows deemed as live adult entertainment. While Florida already has laws barring children from strip clubs and other entertainment deemed pornography, this would expand limits on shows that include prosthetic breasts or sex organs or which have sexually suggestive material.
The Florida Senate already passed an identical version of the bill. The House on Wednesday approved the legislation on a party-line 82-32 vote.
“I just don't understand when drag queens became enemy number one,” said Florida Rep. Fentrice Driskell, the House’s Democratic caucus leader.
The drag bill wasn’t the only anti-LGBTQ+ one to clear the body Wednesday. But it’s the only one now headed straight to Gov. Ron DeSantis's desk, adding to a list of anti-gay policies on his resume as he prepares to run for President.
The House also approved a bathroom bill that would require individuals to use gender-designated restroom facilities based on the gender on their birth certificate instead of their gender identity. Florida Rep. Rachel Plakon, the Republican sponsor, said this was about protecting women from violence, not ostracizing trans people.
“This bill simply codifies what has been part of our culture and tradition since 1887, what we all learned in kindergarten, that boys use the boy's room, and girls use the girl's room,” she said.
Her bill makes exceptions for intersex people, but not for trans people, and in fact defines sex based on chromosomes and hormones.
Florida Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, the only lesbian in the Florida Legislature, castigated colleagues for intruding on transgender individuals’ most private activities.
“I'm sorry for the adults that work in this building and cannot use the bathroom,” she said, “or no longer feel that they can use the bathroom. I'm sorry. And for those who may have been triggered by what I just said, I said what I said because at the end of the day, we in this House are called to respect all Floridians. And this bill does not do that.”
A silver lining, at least for now, is that a Senate version of that bill hasn’t advanced as smoothly. It has cleared one committee that needs a sign-off by the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee before it reaches the floor.
Meanwhile, the House also passed a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, in an 82-31 vote. The prohibition included the use of treatments like puberty blockers as well as surgery. The Senate has moved forward on that as well, but the chambers do have significant differences in bills right now. The most significant is that House members don’t want to allow care to continue for minors even if they have already started medically transitioning. The Senate legislation would stop new treatments for minors but allow those who already have received care to continue with treatments. The House also wants to ban private insurers from reimbursing gender-affirming care, even for adults.
“Minors should not be making decisions relating to gender dysphoria that can have life-altering long-term, irreversible conditions,” said Fine, who also sponsored the health care bill.
Major medical associations support gender-affirming care for trans youth. Most care for young people involves treatment that is reversible.
The bills passed the same day that the state's board of education approved a measure expanding the state's "don't say gay" law up until high school graduation.