News (USA)

GOP lawmaker wants to ban businesses from talking about LGBTQ+ people in sweeping new bill

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Florida Republican Rep. Ryan Chamberlin has introduced new state legislation that is effectively a “Don’t Say Gay” bill for the workplace. It also contains provisions that could make it impossible for LGBTQ+ nonprofits to operate in the state.

Filed on Tuesday, H.B. 599 would ban state and local government employees and contractors from providing their preferred pronouns or titles (such as Mr., Mrs., or Ms.) if they do not correspond to their sex assigned at birth, which it defines as “an immutable biological trait.” It also bans state and local governments from asking employees and contractors for their preferred pronouns and from requiring them to refer to anyone else by their preferred pronouns or titles.

It also creates a new category of “deeply held” beliefs protected by law: “It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to take adverse personnel action against an employee or a contractor because of the employee’s or contractor’s deeply held religious or biology-based beliefs, including a belief in traditional or Biblical views of sexuality and marriage, or the employee’s or contractor’s disagreement with gender ideology, whether those views are expressed by the employee or contractor at or away from the worksite.”

As journalist Erin Reed points out, the bill’s definition of “contractor” encompasses “a huge number of businesses, such as stadiums, convention centers, major hospitals, insurance agencies, and more.” H.B. 599, Reed writes, would “effectively banning social transition at work” for employees of these types of businesses.

The bill also targets “nonprofit organizations or an employer who receives funding from the state.”

“It is an unlawful employment practice for a nonprofit organization or an employer who receives funding from the state to require, as a condition of employment, any training, instruction, or other activity on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” the bill reads.

Likening H.B. 599 to Russian laws aimed at shutting down LGBTQ+ organizations, Reed writes that the law’s passage could lead to “virtually every” LGBTQ+ organization in Florida shutting down. “It would be nearly impossible for an LGBTQ+ organization to run without providing instruction, training, and ‘other activity’ around gender identity or sexuality,” she wrotes.

Reed also notes that the bill’s definition of “nonprofit organization” includes “any organization that is exempt from taxation,” including 501(c) organizations. She writes that the bill could potentially be used to target left-leaning organizations that run ads during election cycles, Planned Parenthood, and state hospitals and community health clinics that educate employees and patients on HIV and AIDS.

On Tuesday, Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) described the bill as “bigoted, unnecessary, and highly unconstitutional.”

“Florida Republicans just filed legislation that would essentially ban gender pronouns in PRIVATE businesses and prohibit trainings about pronouns in nonprofits too,” Eskamani wrote in a post on X, noting that the proposed law would ban LGBTQ+ rights organization Equality Florida from existing.

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