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Human Rights Campaign issues travel warning for Florida

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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization – has joined Equality Florida to issue a travel advisory for the state of Florida due to the anti-LGBTQ+ bills that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed this year.

HRC said the advisory is not “a blanket recommendation against travel nor a call for boycott” but rather “outlines the devastating impacts of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety policies, foment racial prejudice, and attack public education by banning books and censoring curriculum in order that prospective travelers or residents can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Equality Florida issued a travel warning in April, but this updated version includes several more anti-LGBTQ+ laws and restrictions that have been passed since then.

On May 17, DeSantis signed a slate of laws targeting LGBTQ+ people, including a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, restrictions on such care for adults, a ban on all-ages drag shows, and an anti-trans bathroom bill.

“As the world goes mad, Florida represents a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy,” DeSantis said during his signing ceremony at a Christian school.

According to Equality Florida, it has been the state’s most anti-LGBTQ+ legislative session in history.  

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said DeSantis “has inflicted deep and lasting damage upon our state, eroding the fundamental rights of our residents and visitors while exploiting the word ‘free’ as a hollow campaign slogan.”

“In free states, books are not banned, history remains uncensored, and healthcare is not criminalized. As a parent, I empathize with every family forced to leave Florida in search of accessible healthcare and inclusive schools for their children. But every day, I see more and more parents stepping forward to defend their children, their neighbors, their schools, and their communities from these relentless attacks.”

The NAACP, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have also issued travel warnings to Florida.

The slew of advisories led the state’s Republican Sen. Rick Scott to devote his time to issuing a press release mocking the warnings. The release declared “a formal travel advisory for all socialists” visiting Florida and said it is “in direct response to the Biden administration attempts to erase capitalism.”

“Please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by Socialists and others who work in the Biden administration.”

Scott added that “attempts to spread Socialism” in Florida “will fail and be met with laughter and mockery.”

DeSantis, who is expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign today, has used the demonization of people of color and queer folks as a cornerstone of his political career.

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 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.

The Don’t Say Gay law – which has been expanded to all grades – has led to the banning of LGBTQ+ books in schools and the forced outing of students to their parents by school administrators. 

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.”

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.”

“Because of Ron DeSantis and his frenzied appeal to extremists, LGBTQ+ people in Florida are finding themselves in a state of emergency every single day,” said HRC President Kelley Robinson. “Since the day he took office, Governor DeSantis has weaponized his position to weave bigotry, hate, and discrimination into public law for his own political gain. We see it as our duty to join Equality Florida — and LULAC and the NAACP — to provide guidance to our community.”

“Those who visit must join us in their vocal opposition to these dangerous policies. Those who pick another place to work, to go to school or to spend their vacation should make clear why they’re not heading to Florida. And to all of our friends and family in Florida, we stand with you and with Equality Florida — we’ll keep working hard to make Florida feel more like the home you deserve it to be.”

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