Ron DeSantis suspends elected state attorney for opposing abortion ban & anti-LGBTQ laws

MIAMI, FLORIDA / UNITED STATES - MARCH 27, 2019: Governor Ron DeSantis appoints Michelle Alvarez Barakat and Tanya Brinkley as judges to Miami’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court.
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Florida’s anti-LGBTQ Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has suspended Andrew Warren, the elected Democratic state attorney for Hillsborough County, after Warren pledged not to enforce laws prohibiting gender-affirming care for transgender youth and prosecuting people who aid, abet, or receive an abortion.

DeSantis said that, in choosing not to enforce these laws “based on his personal agenda,” Warren violated his oath of office. DeSantis appointed Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez to serve as acting state attorney during Warren’s suspension, which will continue indefinitely.

“The constitution of Florida has vested the veto power in the governor, not in individual state attorneys,” DeSantis said on Thursday morning. “And so when you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty, you have neglected your duty, and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties.”

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The state constitution gives the governor the power to suspend state officials for different reasons, including neglect of duty, incompetence, and permanent inability to perform official duties.

Warren had recently signed an open letter. shared by the state prosecutor coalition Fair and Just Prosecution, opposing the criminal prosecution of abortion seekers, aiders, and providers. On July 1, a state law went into effect forbidding Floridians from getting an abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a period of time in which some women may not even realize that they are pregnant.

Warren has openly criticized Florida’s anti-LGBTQ laws, including the state’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law forbidding teachers from acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ people in front of school children.

In early March, Warren wrote, “I’m disgusted to see the passage of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. At a time when our state needs to unite to solve important problems, this bill fosters prejudice and hatred — and our society already has enough of both.”

He also joined a statement signed by prosecutors all over the country in June 2021 saying “to use our discretion and not promote the criminalization of gender- affirming healthcare or transgender people.” Other states have enacted legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors, but Florida hasn’t. DeSantis still cited this letter as proof that “Warren thinks he has authority to defy the Florida Legislature.”

In response to Warren’s suspension, DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw, who has denied facemasks’ efficacy in stopping COVID-19 and called LGBTQ teachers and allies pedophilic rapists, accused Warren of treating “criminals with deference and victims with contempt,” adding, “This dereliction of duty is why crime is surging.”

Pushaw’s “Soros-backed” remark refers to George Soros, the Jewish billionaire businessman who sometimes backs Democratic and progressive political candidates. Right-wingers often mention his name in antisemitic attacks as a political bogeyman.

Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried called Warren’s suspension “a politically motivated attack on a universally respected State Attorney democratically elected to exercise prosecutorial discretion.”

“Ron DeSantis is a pathetic bully,” Fried said. “He’s doing this because he wants to be dictator, not a governor of Florida. That’s not how this works, though. This will backfire. We just saw it in Kansas. Florida is a pro-choice, pro-democracy state. If this stands, the people of Florida will put an end to it in November.”

Fried is one of four Democrats running to unseat DeSantis in November. The others are Rep. Charlie Crist, consultant Cadance Daniel, and minister Robert Lee Willis. Recent polling showed Crist leading his Demcratic competitors and just barely beating DeSantis in a head-to-head matchup.

In a statement, Crist said, “The people of Hillsborough elected Andrew Warren not once, but twice, because of his commitment to safety and justice for all people. This action by Governor DeSantis is that of a wannabe dictator who puts partisan politics first. He doesn’t give a damn about women or average Floridians. It’s a flagrant abuse of power.”

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