May 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis attacks LGBTQ+ community with "slate of hate" laws

Illustration of the stripes of the Pride flag falling onto the ground.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Florida's LGBTQ+ community has been bracing for legislative blows all year, and their fears were confirmed Wednesday when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several controversial bills dubbed a "slate of hate" by activists.

Driving the news: DeSantis signed four bills into law that touch several aspects of daily life for some LGBTQ+ community members, from limiting the use of preferred pronouns in public schools to criminalizing the use of bathrooms that don't align with a person's sex at birth.

The big picture: DeSantis is doubling down on his administration's previous efforts to prohibit gender-affirming health care for minors and restrict classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • The legislation bans certain clinical services offered to transgender teens, but also requires adult patients seeking such treatment to provide "written, informed consent" that these procedures are "dangerous."
  • It also expands the Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by critics, through eighth grade.

Zoom in: Positioned behind a podium reading "Let Kids Be Kids" at Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, DeSantis said Florida is "a citadel of normalcy, and kids should have an upbringing that reflects that."

  • The Republican governor also repeated misleading talking points about the clinical services offered to transgender youth, including the notion that such health care is "not based in science."

Be smart: DeSantis called gender-affirming care "a movement amongst I would say rogue elements of the medical establishment." But most major medical associations in the U.S. — including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — support gender-affirming care for adults and adolescents.

  • Surgeries are not considered for children, and they are not commonly recommended or provided to adolescents.

Details: A measure signed Wednesday would bar Florida's schools from requiring employees and students to use a person's preferred pronouns if they don't correspond to their sex assigned at birth.

  • Another newly signed bill would punish business owners who knowingly allow children to attend "adult live performances," which LGBTQ+ activists say will lead to the policing of drag shows and Pride events.
  • The bathroom legislation applies to educational institutions, detention facilities, correctional institutions and juvenile correctional facilities, among other public buildings.

What they're saying: Joe Saunders, political director of LGBTQ+ rights nonprofit Equality Florida, called the signing "an all-out attack on freedom."

  • "DeSantis doesn't see freedom as a value worth defending. He sees it as a campaign slogan in his bid for the White House."

"My art form is not endangering to children, it's not endangering to anyone," Angelique Young, a Tampa-based drag performer, said Wednesday at Equality Florida's virtual press conference.

  • "What this bill does is it takes away opportunities for trained people like myself to showcase their talent and their skills and their education in a mindful way."
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