Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday signed new laws targeting LGBTQ+ people, especially trans people. The Republican governor presented the bills as a pushback on extremism.
He signed the slate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
At a Christian school, he promised to make Florida a “citadel of normalcy.”
The bills signed are House Bill 1069, which legislatively expands the state's "don't say gay" law; Senate Bill 254, which bans gender-affirming care; House Bill 1521, which restricts what bathrooms transgender people can use; and House Bill 1423, which restricts drag shows.
One new law threatens business licenses for venues that allow minors into drag shows, while a second prohibits doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors. Both had been carried in the Florida Legislature by Florida state Sen. Clay Yarborough and Florida state Rep. Randy Fine, both Republicans. The two laws go into effect immediately.
He also signed a bill extending the state’s controversial “don’t say gay” law, which will now prohibit any classroom instruction regarding sexual orientation or gender identity through eighth grade. In that case, a DeSantis-named Board of Education has already gone even further, prohibiting those topics though high school graduation.
He also signed a bill segregating bathrooms in publicly owned buildings in the state of Florida.
The legislation also expands the ability for those outside of Florida schools to challenge books from appearing in classrooms or even remaining on library shelves. While creating an appeal process for putting materials back into circulation, it still pulls books immediately after objections claiming material to be politically controversial or pornographic.
The new law takes effect on July 1.
Fine, when he presented his anti-LGBTQ+ bills on the House floor, described transgender people in apocalyptic terms.
“There is evil in this world,” he said repeatedly, “and we face it here today.”
Fine notably has fought against local Pride festivals on Florida’s Atlantic coast, and repeatedly alluded to his fight with Space Coast Pride. He tried unsuccessfully to shut that event down over the inclusion of a drag queen story time that event organizers invited families to attend.
Even before the drag show ban went into effect, it already shaped other events in the region. A Pride event in Port St. Lucie canceled a parade and restricted attendance to those 21 and older.
During this year’s legislative session, Fine supported the erasure of the LGBTQ+ community, implying children were recruited into queer identities.
“If it means ‘erasing a community’ because you have to target children — then, damn right, we ought to do it!” Fine said in a committee meeting in April.
Yarborough was less invective when pushing the legislation. While both he and Fine denied the bill targeted only drag shows, it covers live adult performances that have even prosthetic breasts shown to the audience, and covers any sexually suggestive content.
Florida law already prohibits minors from going to strip shows with actual nudity.
Yarborough made clear on the Senate floor the bill could cover even live reenactments of The Rocky Horror Picture Show done in theaters, along with stage productions of Tootsie.
The GOP lawmakers denied the bill threatens the decision-making power of parents about whether children should be allowed to see drag performances. The bill does threaten business licenses and individual workers who allow children into venues.
Notably, the DeSantis administration earlier this year went after a hotel’s liquor license, even though culinary staff were simply catering “A Drag Show Christmas” event at a different venue.
Another law signed by DeSantis comes for any kind of gender-affirming care provided to minors, including puberty blockers and surgeries. The new legislation codifies restrictions already largely put in place by a DeSantis-appointed Board of Medicine.
The legislation could open the door to parents of transgender children facing child abuse charges.
While the legislature ultimately dropped House language that would bar insurance companies from covering such care even for adults, this legislation mirrors bills being enacted in Republican legislatures across the country. It opens the door for the state wading into family disputes about care when parents live in separate states.
The legislation also puts a new definition into state law of sex to say Florida only will recognize the gender assigned at birth for individuals.
Fine refused to recognize the term “gender-affirming care” during House debate, instead referencing puberty blockers as “castration drugs.”
While all medical associations fought against a ban on surgeries, DeSantis called such expert testimony “rogue elements of the medical establishment.”
“This will permanently outlaw the mutilation of minors,” DeSantis said of the law. “It will outlaw the surgical procedures and experimental puberty blockers for minors and will also require any adults receiving the surgeries to be informed about the irreversible nature. and about the dangers of the procedures."
Gender-affirming medical care is safe. Major medical associations in the U.S. support such treatment for trans people, even transgender youth.
Lakey Love of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation has described the legislation as a step toward genocide for transgender people. The refusal to recognize gender identities as valid in state law takes an enormous step toward erasure of trans identity altogether, and now threatens to criminalize parents providing the best care for children.
It also makes a third-degree felony out of providing care.
The law “changes the definition of sex to deny that trans folx exist,” they wrote in an action email.
These bills were among a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation passed by Florida lawmakers this year. DeSantis has already signed a “right to discriminate” bill allowing medical professionals to deny care to LGBTQ+ people based on moral and religious beliefs.
“DeSantis has just signed into law the largest slate of anti-LGBTQ bills in one legislative session in the state’s history,” said Joe Saunders, senior political director of Equality Florida, in a statement. “This is an all out attack on freedom. Free states don’t strip parents of the right to make healthcare decisions for their children. Free states don’t ban books, censor curriculum, or muzzle free speech. DeSantis doesn’t see freedom as a value worth defending, he sees it as a campaign slogan in his bid for the White House. And he is setting freedom -- and Florida’s reputation -- ablaze in his desperation to win the GOP nomination. The nation should be on high alert. We are all Floridians as DeSantis seeks to export this blueprint of authoritarianism to the rest of the country.