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DeSantis continues war on LGBTQ+ community

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Photo by Marco Bello / Reuters
Photo by Marco Bello / Reuters

On Wednesday, May 17, Florida Gov. Ron DeStantis signed into law the latest wave of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, which place further limitations on access to gender-affirming care, restrict classroom discussions of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ topics, and criminalize people who use the "wrong" bathroom.

The Human Rights Campaign condemned him "for signing a slate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills designed to scale back on the freedoms of LGBTQ+ people and other vulnerable communities."

Photo by Octavio Jones / Reuters  

DeSantis signed several key bills that will target educators at every level in Florida in both public and private institutions.

HB 1069, dubbed by many the "Don't Say Gay Expansion Bill," prohibits mention of gender identity or sexuality in any pre-K through eighth-grade classrooms. The new law also calls for the removal of "certain classroom materials" within a specified period. This has already led to purging in public school libraries throughout Florida.

The law also takes on the highly controversial topic of pronouns. It prohibits employees and students from providing, being asked to provide, and being required to use certain titles and pronouns. It states that "it shall be the policy of every public K-12 educational institution that is provided or authorized by the Constitution and laws of Florida that a person's sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person's sex."

According to the HRC, this law now forces staff and students to "deadname and misgender" all Trans and Nonbinary people in their school, as a subsection of the law says that employees of K-12 institutions "may not provide to a student his or her preferred personal title or pronouns if such preferred personal title or pronouns do not correspond to his or her sex."

This new law also revises all materials used in schools for sex education. It updates the legal definition of "sex" to focus solely on reproduction and not to include LGBTQ+ topics. Furthermore, Florida schools do not mandate sex education; many only teach comprehensive health education, and students may opt out of instruction on reproductive health.

DeSantis also signed SB 266, which requires the state's board of education to approve courses in all Florida higher education institutions, including private colleges and universities. The board is composed of members appointed by the governor.

Moreover, the Florida Educational Equality Act (Statute 1000.05) applies to higher education as well. It states that "the board shall include in its review a directive to each constituent university regarding its programs for any curriculum that violates S. 1000.05 or that is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities."

This allows the board to remove majors and minors in critical race theory, ethnic studies, and women's and gender studies and prohibits spending on university programs that encourage ideas and theories grounded in those practices.

Photo by Octavio Jones / Reuters  

DeSantis also signed SB 254, also known as "the Extreme Gender Affirming Care Ban," into law on Wednesday. This now makes it a felony for doctors to provide, prescribe, solicit, or even attempt to aid in gender-affirming care for anyone under 18. Any doctor accused of contributing to the transition of a minor will have their license immediately suspended before trial. It also prohibits Medicaid from covering gender-affirming care for Trans adults in Florida.

The law states that gender-affirming care, or even the "risk" of gender-affirming care, is reason enough for the courts to receive temporary jurisdiction over a child present in the state if "the child has been subjected to or is threatened with being subjected to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures." It defines such procedures as including hormone replacement therapy and puberty blockers.

It also allows Florida family courts to apply exceptional jurisdiction to minors who reside in another state so long as a parent with partial custody resides in Florida. It also prohibits parents in family court disputes from removing a child from Florida to receive gender-affirming care.

DeSantis also signed into law SB 1580, which allows healthcare professionals and insurance providers to refuse care "based on conscience-based objections." The law defines these as any religious, moral, or ethical beliefs one might hold, thus allowing providers to refuse care to Transgender people, Queer people, or anyone seeking an abortion.

Under this law, providers have immunity from liability over any "negative consequences that may result from their denial to provide care." The law is broad, so, as a result, it can apply not only to doctors and nurses but also to medical transport services, clinical lab personnel, and nursing homes.

This law will also extend whistle-blower protections to healthcare workers and providers who "disclose certain information relating to the reporting of certain violations." This means that doctors or medical personnel who spread misinformation cannot be punished by their medical boards. It also allows healthcare providers to discriminate in hiring practices.

"The potential public health and private sector consequences of such a bill are wide-ranging and detrimental," said Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy counsel of the ACLU in a statement. "SB 1580 is akin to a state-sanctioned license to discriminate in the provision of any healthcare service. It is quite frankly shocking in its breadth and vagueness and government overreach into the private sector and regulated businesses. Medical standards —- not ethical, moral, or religious beliefs — should guide medical treatment and healthcare services."

Not wanting to be outdone by Kansas and Arkansas, DeSantis signed one of the strictest bathroom bills into law. HB 1521 classifies using the "wrong" bathroom as criminal trespassing, which can lead to up to one year in jail. The law applies not only to bathrooms but also to changing rooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms, correctional facilities, and domestic violence shelters.

This law also bans gender-inclusive restrooms in schools, public shelters, healthcare facilities, and jails. The law goes so far as to define "female" as "a person belonging, at birth, to the biological sex which has the specific reproductive role of producing eggs," and "male" as "a person belonging, at birth, to the biological sex which has the specific reproductive role of producing sperm."

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ political watchdog group in the country, has tracked 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures this year. Over 220 of those target Trans people specifically. This far surpasses 2022, which had previously held the record for most anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced, at 315, with 29 passing into law.

Despite the new laws in Florida, the latest data from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 80% of the state's citizens support nondiscrimination protections, and 66% oppose refusal of care on religious grounds.

On Wednesday DeSantis officially announced he will be running for president in 2024 on Twitter Spaces.