Since 2021, when Florida lawmakers passed a bill targeting trans athletes, later signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republicans in the state have gained more power.
And this year, they’ve unveiled what Equality Florida has dubbed a “slate of hate bills,” driven in no small part by DeSantis’ stated priorities, including the “protection” of children from queerness, as he prepares to (likely) run for president in 2024.
Last year, there was “Don’t Say Gay,” “Stop WOKE,” and a law that’s emboldened a wave of book banning and the removal of books from K-12 classrooms at the behest of conservative activists with groups like Moms for Liberty.
This year, there’s more. A lot more.
Here at Orlando Weekly and Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, we believe knowledge is power. This sh*t—Florida politics, that is—is difficult to navigate and understand sometimes.
So, we want to help make it easier.
We’re going to include the state lawmakers who’ve filed it (we call ‘em out as we see it), broad strokes of what the bill would do, and what people are saying about it.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
HB 1223: Expanding Don’t Say Gay
What it would do: This bill would expand Florida’s existing “Don’t Say Gay” law, by banning classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation from pre-K through eighth grade. Currently, it’s banned up to third grade. Plus, discussion in grades eight and up would be restricted to that which is “age appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate”—terms that are super vague and not clearly defined by legislators. The bill would also regulate pronoun usage. Piggybacking off last year’s nickname, this new bill’s been dubbed “Don’t Say They” by opponents.
What folks are saying: “This legislation is about a fake moral panic, cooked up by Governor DeSantis to demonize LGBTQ people for his own political career,” said Equality Florida Public Policy Director Jon Harris Maurer. “Free states don’t ban books or people.”
SB254/HB1421: Banning gender affirming care
What it would do: Lot to unpack, but TLDR; the biggest thing is that this legislation would ban gender affirming treatment (e.g. puberty blockers) for trans and nonbinary youth, and cut off public insurance coverage for it (if you’re lucky to have any at all). That means adults would be impacted, too. The bill would also allow the state to take “emergency” custody of a child whose parents allow them access to that treatment. That could include children in custody of a trans-affirming parent out of state. Some have been likening this to “state-sponsored kidnapping.” Gender affirming care (which can be medical, or social—like simply using someone’s preferred pronouns) is evidence-based for treating gender dysphoria, and it’s endorsed by every major medical association, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.
What folks are saying about it: “What you’re doing is taking away a life-saving potential opportunity for me and my family. A decision that should be made between me and my healthcare professionals and my therapist that works with my child,” Judy Schmidt, a parent of a young transgender child, said during a committee meeting for SB 254.
SB 1438: Legislating drag
What it would do: Under the guise of “protecting” children from drag performances (um, OK), the bill threatens to “fine, suspend, or revoke” the license of any public establishment that admits children to an “adult live performance.” The definition for that term is described in painstaking detail, and uses the words “shameful” and “morbid interest.” Legislating drag is a move that’s being taken up by conservatives across the country. Tennessee was the first state to approve similar legislation in February.
What folks are saying about it: “In his desperation to build a presidential campaign on the backs of LGBTQ people, DeSantis has already taken aim at small businesses that host drag performances,” Equality Florida spokesperson Brandon Wolf told Axios Tampa Bay. “It should come as no surprise that he may cajole the Legislature into carrying out his punishment of those small businesses, and the stripping away of parents' rights to choose what entertainment their families enjoy, during session.”
HB1011: Bans Pride flags from public buildingsWhat it would do: Essentially what the title says. Would ban and require the removal of LGBTQ+ Pride flags from public buildings, including schools. Oddly enough, the bill also wouldn’t allow for local government flags to be flown either (in Tampa’s case, maybe that’s a blessing in disguise).
What folks are saying about it: “It’s onerous, ridiculous and would take away a community’s right to display flags that reflect those communities,” said Jim Gilleran, who owns a gay bar in Key West
SB 1674: Anti-trans bathroom bill
What it would do: Republican Sen. Erin Grall isn’t satisfied with just fighting against abortion rights. Nah, she’s also filed an anti-trans bathroom bill, titled the “Safety in Private Spaces Act,” that’d ban people from “willfully entering” gender-specific bathrooms and changing rooms designated for “the opposite sex.” How that would be enforced is anyone’s guess. The bill does contain some exemptions: It would, for instance, exclude chaperones for young kids, custodial workers just doing their damn jobs (provided no one’s in the restroom/changing room), as well as cops and emergency medical workers who are also entering for work-related reasons.
What folks are saying: “More anti-trans bigotry funded by Florida tax dollars,” Thomas Kennedy, a DNC member and activist, said.
HB 1069: Mucking up sex-ed
What it would do: It would regulate sex-ed in schools by only approving it for sixth graders and up, and would force abstinence-only as the “expected standard” for teens. It would also allow any person in your school district to object to any classroom book, school library book, or a book on a reading list that shows or describes any sexual conduct, even if it is not pornographic—provided it’s not for a health course. Plus, if you like the gender binary, this one’s for you: It would redefine sex to “the binary division of individuals based upon reproductive function” in public schools.
What folks are saying about it: The ACLU describes it as “state dictated sex ed” (we love that Big Government here in Florida) and “expanded book banning.” The Florida Coalition for Trans Liberation has dubbed it the “Trans and Queer Denier in Sex Education Bill.”
HB 999: Eliminating queerness from colleges and universities
What it would do: First things first, it’s not just an anti-LGBTQ+ bill (because I know some folks aren’t happy with how the media is framing this). It would essentially overhaul state colleges and universities, creating a hellscape for faculty and staff. But it would also gut diversity programs, as well as ban majors and minors in subjects like Gender Studies, Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, Radical Gender Theory, etc. Critics are calling it unconstitutional, and frankly, we can’t imagine how it wouldn’t be. Welcome to the Free State of Florida, y’all.
What folks are saying about it: “Blocking access to knowledge and ideas to control how people think isn't freedom—it's fascist indoctrination happening now in Ron DeSantis’ Florida in plain sight,” tweeted former State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando
SB 952: Targeting employer coverage of trans healthcare
What it would do: This bill, dubbed the “Reverse Woke Act” by its own bill sponsor, would require Florida employers that cover the cost of transgender healthcare services to also cover the cost of any “detransition” treatment, should that ever become necessary. This would apply even for workers who are no longer employed by that same boss.
What folks are saying about it: “If successful, the bill could result in tens of thousands of transgender adults losing coverage for gender affirming care because companies may consider it too risky to provide such coverage,” wrote activist and independent reporter Erin Reed.
You know that chant right? (Stand up fight back!)
We know this is depressing stuff (OK, the flag thing is kind of funny, sorry-not-sorry hideous Tampa flag), but just because there are folks who have proposed this legislation in Florida doesn’t mean there aren’t also people in Florida fighting back.
Groups like the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation and Equality Florida have issued a number of calls to action.
Advocates have been urging folks to call or email legislators (not just your own, but those who are sitting on these committees that vote on the bills) to tell them to vote “No” on these proposals.
You can find Florida House reps (and their contact info) via myfloridahouse.gov and Florida Senators’ vis flsenate.gov.
Often, these calls to action come with templates: A framework for what you might tell legislators. But, sharing a personal story can also be powerful.
Raise awareness in general
Talk to your family about these bills (if it’s safe for you to do so). Your friends. Coworkers. Neighbors. Post on social media, make a TikTok that goes viral.
And tell all of them (followers, friends, family) to contact their legislators, too.
Organize in your community
In addition to the electoral stuff, there are also groups that are organizing on a grassroots level, from the ground up, to build a safe and welcoming community for LGBTQ+ folks, and to help care for folks’ basic needs moving forward.
There are groups in the Tampa Bay region and Orlando that offer spaces for peer support, for instance, and/or organize mutual aid. We’ve got those resources listed below.
Legislative attacks on the basic human rights and dignities of queer folks isn’t easy to read, write (quite frankly), or to live through. If this has taken a toll on your mental health, you’re not alone. Here are some resources that can help you learn more about what’s going on and/or where you can find support:
Peer Support Space (Orlando) peersupportspace.org
Trans Lifeline translifeline.org
Equality Florida eqfl.org
Florida Coalition for Trans Liberation fc4tl.org
Metro Inclusive Health (Tampa Bay) metrotampabay.org
The Center Orlando thecenterorlando.org
Q Latinx (Orlando) qlatinx.org
Del Ambiente (Orlando): A community of LGBTQ+ Puerto Ricans @DelAmbiente on Facebook
Fed Up Collective For trans+, intersex, and gender diverse people with eating disorders
For LGBTQ Youth:
The Trevor Project thetrevorproject.org
Zebra Coalition (Orlando) zebrayouth.org
Project Caerus projectcaerus.org