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LGBTQ+ organization warns people against traveling or moving to Florida

Ron DeSantis, Disney, Florida, district
Gov. Ron DeSantis Photo: Shutterstock

Florida’s preeminent LGBTQ+ rights organization has issued an official travel warning to LGBTQ+ people considering visiting the state.

Equality Florida wrote on Instagram this week that it has invoked this warning “with great sadness” after spending “decades working to improve Florida’s reputation as a welcoming, inclusive place.”

On its website, the organization details the relentless legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ Floridians – spearheaded by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) – that resulted in this warning that “Florida may not be a safe place to visit or take up residence.”

“Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state,” the organization wrote. “We regret that these attacks have already led many to flee the state and are driving others to consider relocation.”

DeSantis, widely expected to run for president in 2024, has used the demonization of people of color and queer folks as a cornerstone of his political career. He has gone to war with Disney over its opposition to the Don’t Say Gay law, launched numerous blindsides attacking “woke indoctrination” in schools, and taken control of the state’s education system with handpicked administrators and the power of the bully pulpit. His staff has regularly smeared LGBTQ+ people and allies on social media with vile slurs and insinuations of sexual abuse.

In short, beginning with the 2022 passage of the Don’t Say Gay law – which prohibits class instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade – DeSantis and the Republican-controlled legislature have devoted their tenure to demonizing LGBTQ+ people and making schools less safe for LGBTQ+ students.

DeSantis’s signing of the bill has led to the banning of LGBTQ+ books in schools and the forced outing of students to their parents by school administrators. The DeSantis administration is now seeking to expand the law to higher grades.

Another DeSantis-backed law, the Stop Woke Act, limits the instruction of topics related to the history of racism in the U.S. And another law requires books made available through school libraries and classroom libraries to be selected by a certified media specialist.

In November, two Florida state medical boards voted to institute a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.

In 2021, DeSantis signed a bill banning trans students from participating in school sports.

DeSantis has ranted against “transgenderism” and “woke gender ideology” and once claimed, “In the state of Florida, we are not going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten.”

Another bill currently being considered in the legislature would allow state courts to remove trans minors from their parents’ custody if the child receives or is “at risk” of receiving gender-affirming healthcare.

All of this – and so much more – has led more than half of LGBTQ+ parents who live in Florida to consider leaving the state.

LGBTQ+ students in Florida are so scared of repercussions that many have refused to speak with LGBTQ Nation about their experiences. A non-LGBTQ+ student told us that terrified queer students are learning to “shut up and keep their head low.”

In a statement about the travel advisory, Equality Florida’s executive director Nadine Smith lamented that “While losing conferences, and top students who have written off Florida threatens lasting damage to our state, it is most heartbreaking to hear from parents who are selling their homes and moving because school censorship, book bans, and health care restrictions have made their home state less safe for their children.”

“We understand everyone must weigh the risks and decide what is best for their safety, but whether you stay away, leave or remain we ask that you join us in countering these relentless attacks.  Help reimagine and build a Florida that is truly safe for and open to all, and where freedom is a reality, not a hollow campaign slogan.”

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