Hundreds Attend Pride at the Capitol to Condemn DeSantis’ Anti-LGBTQ Agenda

Hundreds Attend Pride at the Capitol to Condemn DeSantis’ Anti-LGBTQ Agenda

TALLAHASSEE, FL -- Hundreds of LBGTQ Floridians and allies traveled to Tallahassee this week for Pride at the Capitol to denounce the over 20 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation that have been filed this session and the broader anti-LGBTQ agenda of Governor DeSantis. Advocates filled committee hearing rooms, shared powerful testimony, attended dozens of meetings with lawmakers, and hosted a press conference outside the Senate chambers. The Pride at the Capitol event marks the beginning of 8 weeks of mobilization to Tallahassee to resist the slate of hate bills that includes assaults on academic and medical freedom, expanded book banning and classroom censorship, and attacks on the right of parents to have their children’s pronouns respected in school.

“The LGBTQ community and our allies are showing up in force with a clear message: real freedom is worth fighting for in Florida,” said Brandon Wolf, Equality Florida Press Secretary. “Free states don’t ban books or censor history. Free states don’t criminalize health care or rip away the rights of parents to see their children respected in schools. This bigoted slate of hate legislation is designed to fuel the governor’s presidential ambitions on the backs of LGBTQ Floridians. He is torching Florida’s reputation nationally and dismantling public education and democracy. It’s time to free Florida from the grip of Ron DeSantis’ fascist agenda.”

At a press conference on Monday, lawmakers and advocates called out the governor’s agenda and the onslaught of legislative attacks against the transgender and nonbinary community specifically. Speakers featured State Senator Shevrin Jones, State Representatives Anna V. Eskamani and Michele Rayner, transgender community leaders, and trans youth and parents. The full press conference can be viewed here. Attendees then provided moving testimony before lawmakers at hearings on proposals to restrict academic and medical freedom.

Despite overwhelming public opposition, bills to expand the Don’t Say LGBTQ law, criminalize gender affirming care, and stage a right wing takeover of higher education advanced. SB 254, the bill to criminalize gender-affirming care, was amended to narrow the scope of its impact on child custody agreements and legal liability for parents who access care for their transgender children. Bill sponsor Senator Yarborough credited conversations with LGBTQ leaders for the changes, but left intact provisions that would threaten doctors with jail time for providing gender affirming care that is supported by every major medical organization in the country, make that care more difficult to access for transgender adults, and upend existing custody agreements in favor of an unsupportive parent. Public comment was limited to 30 seconds per speaker, muting the voices of Floridians who traveled hours in order to be heard. The bill advanced largely along party lines.

HB 1223, the proposal to expand the Don’t Say LGBTQ law’s censorship provisions to 8th grade and revoke the right of parents to determine which pronouns the school system will use to address their children, also advanced despite impassioned pleas from the public for committee members to put a stop to the wave of book banning and anti-LGBTQ censorship that has swept the state in the wake of Don’t Say LGBTQ. State Representative Rita Harris filed an amendment to require schools to honor written requests from parents regarding the pronouns their children should be addressed with. The reasonable amendment was rejected, highlighting the hypocrisy behind claims that Don’t Say LGBTQ is about preserving parental rights. The bill advanced by a vote of 14-4.

HB 999, the right wing takeover of higher education that would ban certain college majors, decimate diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at Florida colleges and universities, eliminate tenure, and put faculty hiring decisions in the hands of political appointees, and HB 991, the proposal to chill free speech that is critical of the government, passed in their committees as well.


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