These bills in the 2024 legislature are an “escalation” of attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, according to Equality Florida

Gay pride flag. By WMNF News (June 2013).

Several bills filed in the Florida Legislature for the 2024 session that began today would impact LGBTQ+ Floridians if they become law.

We spoke about these with our guests, Joe Saunders, the senior political director of Equality Florida and Quinn Diaz, a public policy associate with Equality Florida.

HB 901 & SB 1120

This bill deals with the display of flags by governmental entities like government buildings, public schools and universities. If passed, they would not be able to fly flags that represent political viewpoint on anything partisan, racial, relating to sexual orientation and gender or political ideological views.

Florida cities such as St. Petersburg and Gulfport often raise LGBTQ Pride flags during Pride month.

Listen to the full show here:

HB 599

This bill places limits on the use of personal pronouns and expands the law that critics call “Don’t Say Gay” to the workplace. According to News Service of Florida, this bill would ‘prevent state and local government agencies from requiring employees and contractors to refer to other people “using that person’s preferred personal title or pronouns if such personal title or pronouns do not correspond to that person’s sex” as determined at birth.’ It prevents penalties for religious or biology-based beliefs and prohibits employees from undergoing training on gender identity.

HB 1233

This bill was filed last week by Republican Representative Dean Black. According to posts on X by former Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, it’s “a sweeping new assault on the rights and dignity of transgender Floridians to at seeks to deny their legal existence, create new barriers to medically necessary care and put anti-LGBTQ mandates on private insurance companies.”

SB 1414

Democratic Senator Tracie Davis has filed SB 1414 on education she calls the “Freedom to Learn Act.” If it becomes law it would repeal “provisions relating to prohibited training or instruction in specified concepts which constitutes discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, or sex; prohibiting school districts from adopting a procedure that compels or authorizes school personnel to share certain information with a parent under certain circumstances; requiring instruction in LGBTQ history in public schools, etc.”

Watch the interview here:

Here’s a rush transcript of this interview

Equality Florida is Florida’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization. We were founded in 1997 in response to the defensive Marriage Act passing in the Florida Capitol. At that time, there were no LGBTQ voices from the community who were there to oppose that law. And when we were founded in response to that, it was our mission to ensure that no anti-LGBTQ laws would pass again. That was true for 23 years. And then Ron DeSantis, was elected. And here we are.

Joe Saunders

SK: We’re going to talk a little bit about the history of LGBTQ legislation in Florida. And then we’ll get to some bills that are in the legislature this week, as soon as this week. So let’s talk about going back to 2021. Governor DeSantis signed a law that kept trans women from playing female sports. And then the following year, he approved the Parental Rights in Education bill that prohibits classroom discussion about gender and identity and other things. So what about the recent legislation that has happened, as you mentioned during the DeSantis administration, would either one of you want to kind of look back a little bit at some of the things that have happened so far?

Sure. Well, I’ll take a first stab at it. And then Quinn, a few want to jump in and certainly correct any of my record. Well, last year was a hallmark year in the worst ways for the LGBTQ community, Sean. Because I’ve been doing this work with equality Florida, and in the LGBTQ movement for almost 20 years. And last year, it was the first time in my time doing work in this state, where we saw such an avalanche of anti-LGBTQ bills. 22 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed in the 2023 legislative session. And when the dust settled, and all was said and done, the substance of 17 of them was passed into law.

So your question is a difficult one because there was quite a lot of ground covered by the far right. But just to hit some of the highlights. We saw a sweeping attack on the transgender community. What we call the gender-affirming care ban. We can talk a little bit more about that but effectively it criminalized doctors and banned health care for transgender young people, while also limiting access to life-saving health care for transgender adults.

We saw the bathroom bill pass, which was a sweeping mandate on public buildings, local governments, colleges, universities, high schools and middle schools to require the policing of transgender people as they entered public restrooms.

We certainly saw the expansion of the Don’t Say Gay or Trans law, which I think most of the public is familiar with, at this point. A law that when it was first filed two years ago was supposed to just be about K through third grade, and then in law saw an expansion up to eighth grade until the Board of Education fueled by our education secretary Manny Diaz, instituted a rule through all K through 12 grades.

So there have really been a sweeping number of attacks on the freedoms of LGBTQ Floridians and an agenda coming from Tallahassee focused on censorship and surveillance.

SK: Equality Florida called that a “slate of hate” that came out about a year ago. And Quinn, do you have anything you’d like to add about what Joe is saying?

Yeah, Joe’s exactly right. After last year’s legislative session, transgender Floridians found themselves crowdfunding their moves out of state, staying home to avoid using a public restroom and desperately attempting to arrange for continued health care coverage against the backdrop of a national debate on the validity of our existence. Nationwide, there was 450 anti-LGBTQ bills that were filed with the anti-trans initiatives seeking to ban access to health care as we have in Florida restrooms, sports, legal protections, identity documents, and even basic recognition while criminalizing supportive loved ones and health care providers.

70 of these bills have passed nationwide. And when you take stock of it, especially in Florida, it’s very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the right’s political end game is persecution and erasure of transgender Floridians.

We’re seeing bills being filed. The legislative session starts Tuesday for 2024. And we’re just seeing this continued escalation of extremist attacks that only work to limit the freedoms of all Floridians through unprecedented government intrusion and censorship, the curtailing of freedoms of speech and expression bodily autonomy and self-determination. And we’re just seeing a doubling down of this commitment to further harm an already marginalized population. Transgender people make up just 1.6% of the national population. So this is an extremely small group of people. And yet the legislature’s focus is not on delivering relief on any of the issues that all Floridians are crying out for. It’s just on attacking this very small segment of the population.

SK: Joe mentioned a few minutes ago about the Florida Board of Education. It adopted in July five new rules that targeted the LGBTQ community in schools. How would that impact the LGBTQ community?

Well, you’re right, there’s been a few. And some of the bills we didn’t mention from last year, but one that’s important to center is the attack on diversity, equity and inclusion in higher ed. So we’ve seen sweeping attacks and sweeping censorship, from Tallahassee in K through 12 public schools and in the higher ed system, Quinn, I know that you follow very closely what was happening at the Board of Governors meeting, you want to talk about that?

These rules are implemented by the agency after the law is passed. We’ve just seen this pattern from the DeSantis administration where the law is extremely restrictive, and then the rulemaking agencies just take it so much further. So as John mentioned, the Board of Governors is responsible for implementing the rules that govern the state university system. In the fall, we just saw a complete prohibition on any expenditures that would be related to social advocacy. That covers so many topics that’s not exclusive to the LGBT community. We’re also seeing that rulemaking still in action for the State Board of Education. Their next meeting is coming up next week on the 17th in Tallahassee where they will similarly adopt that language that the Board of Governors has already approved of. It’s just an all-out attack on the rights and dignities of any type of minority group on a college campus. In K through 12 classrooms, we’re seeing complete bans on instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity through eighth grade. And again, here’s an example where the state board of education is just taking it one step further. Because they created a rule that was not in the original law that requires that any school-sponsored event activity — they’re trying to intimidate teachers from sponsoring them, because if they basically don’t line up perfectly with the law teachers can’t even sponsor those groups and those clubs. That was not in the original law. This is the rulemaking agencies just taking this censorship agenda one step further.

SK: And perhaps a way to illustrate some of the changes that have happened in Florida. On Sunday, the Washington Post ran a story, it was called Family friendly drag queen faces hate and threats in hostile Florida. It’s about Lakeland resident, Jason DeShazo, who has become a target of the far right because he performs as Mamma Ashley Rose. The post writes that neo-Nazi protesters have disrupted his shows while Christian groups have tried to shut them down entirely. He’s received online death threats. So how does this story kind of illustrate what’s happening in Florida?

I’ll say this Sean, I feel like as advocates, but also as a practitioner in the press, anybody out in the world who is watching what is happening, a mistake that we can make sometimes is to center the fires and not center the arsonists. And so I think it’s important to pull up a little bit and ask ourselves, what is happening and why? Why is this happening?

Well, the reality is, is that, you know, why is it that state law and the legislature and all of these different institutions suddenly feel like they’re in alignment with the same neo Nazi groups that are protesting a drag show? Why is that happening? Well, I think it’s happening because the state under Governor Ron DeSantis, has been pulled dramatically to the right, and some of the guardrails — and I served in the Florida legislature back in 2012. And for years and years and years, these kinds of attacks would be laughed at. They would be marginalized. You know, people would file bills like these, but we would not see them moving. We certainly wouldn’t see them being turned into law. And I think the thing that has changed is that Ron DeSantis has followed his political ambitions, made the decision to yank the state to the right. He’s allowed the inmates to be in charge of the asylum. And so these far-right think tank driven plays that we see, as Quinn mentioned, proliferating and promulgating across the country suddenly have a salience here that they haven’t had before. That is what is happening. This is about the political ambitions of a governor fueled by hubris, and super far-right lawmakers who historically would have been marginalized, suddenly being given a microphone and being given a platform to do some really horrible things.

SK: There’s been some talk that perhaps because Governor DeSantis’s presidential campaign has flopped, that he might not hold as much sway in the Florida Legislature. Do you think that that possibility, it might indicate that this session might not be as bad or there might not be as much this “slate of hate,” as you put it last year might not be quite as hateful?

So I wish that were true. I wish that’s what we were seeing. But I think what we’re seeing actually is an escalation of this agenda. The climate has certainly been set by this governor. This governor who has been willing to sow division amongst Floridians. If Governor DeSantis had his way, I think he would have the country believing that Florida was a bastion of a far-right conservative thought, that it was a place where, you know, the whitewashing of history was celebrated by a majority of people. But you know, I don’t believe that’s who Florida is.

But I think that the genie’s out of the bottle. Now, what we’re seeing already in, you know, the middle of the day tomorrow (1/9) is when we’ll actually know the full landscape of the legislative session. And what Quinn and I, and the team that we work with have been living through is this avalanche of bill.

So we’re tracking — many of which we haven’t fully been able to read, because some of them drop in there as many as 70 pages long. But what we’re tracking so far is as many as 15 anti-LGBTQ bills that expressly attack our community. And I think it’s really important to say that the majority of them expressly attack the transgender community. That at the end of the day, we you know, this is a far-right think tank-driven play, to demonize and marginalize a community that has quit has already mentioned is not very well known by the public that it’s easy to spin, conjecture and lies and misinformation about. It is an easy target for promulgating fear. And that really is the play. That’s what Ron DeSantis has made possible in Florida as far-right lawmakers playing to their own base, but signaling to the broader populace: there are people out there you should be afraid of, and we’re going to create laws that protect you from them, that in effect, remove freedoms, rights, and protections for already marginalized people.

SK: Let’s look at some of the new bills that are being proposed. The first one I’d like you to talk about is HB 901, which is also called Senate Bill 1120. And that’s the display of flags by governmental entities like government buildings, public schools and universities. That they will not be able to — if this bill passes and becomes law — they will not be able to represent a political viewpoint on anything partisan racial, or relating to sexual orientation or gender or political ideological views. So for example, every year I usually cover the city of Gulfport raising its LGBTQ pride flag over its library each Pride Month. So that would ban displays of pride flags on government buildings and universities?

That’s right, yes, this bill would ban the use of any flag that represents a political viewpoint, including pride flags from public buildings, and it’s just another part of this censorship agenda. It is born largely from far-right activists who protest LGBTQ pride flags on government buildings, and bans, the visibility in public spaces and classrooms for all minority groups. We saw a similar bill filed last year. And the sponsor got tripped up because he, in the debate, basically conceded that, yeah, we can still fly Confederate flags under the proposed bill from last session. So they’re taking a different approach this year, but the goal is the same: to limit visibility and prohibit the use of LGBTQ red flags in public spaces.

SK: And Joe, what do you think — if it failed last year, is it likely to be able to go ahead this year?

I’m not sure. I mean, I think that so many of the guardrails are off that people should take all of these attacks very seriously, Sean. I do think that this bill, as drafted is very broad. It’s interesting to see that, as they try, as the far-right members of this legislature try to get to the things that they want, how often they will overplay. So for example, I read this bill, and I think it includes a display of the flag of Israel, for example. I think it includes displays of the Cuban flag, which here in Miami-Dade County is a really important part of civic life. So, it is one more way of hyper-flexing into an agenda of censorship that is designed to divide people. When where I think the public really is, is they want a Florida that’s anchored in inclusion. Where everybody gets an identity that works for them, everybody gets to exist and coexist in a way that is harmonious. So I think there are lots of pressures around this bill. There are lots of communities impacted by this bill, which could affect its final trajectory. But I don’t think any of us should start from the assumption that all of these bills do not have legs.

SK: We’re talking, again, about HB 901, or SB 1120, Display of flags by government entities. So Quinn or Joe, anything more to talk about that bill before we move on to a couple of the others? HB 599 would limit the use of personal pronouns. So it expands the Don’t Say Gay bill to the workplace, what critics call the Don’t Say Gay law. So how would that impact Floridians?

I’m really glad you raised this one, I think this is one of the most dangerous bills that’s been filed this session. We’ve begun to call this “Don’t Say Gay or Trans at Work” because this is an extreme escalation, again, of a law that was never about children. When we first were presented with the Don’t Say Gay or Trans law, the original draft, and what lawmakers told us over and over again, as we pushed back was, this was just about limiting the conversations in the K -12 system to third grade. And the very next year, they expanded it in law to eighth grade and in rule to 12th grade. And this has always been what the agenda was about, it was always anchored in bigotry. It was always anchored in this belief that visibility of gay or transgender experience is offensive to some and that some people’s bigotry and homophobia and transphobia should be the center of the conversation in public life, while the rest of us need to be quiet. And if we’re not willing to be quiet, we should leave the state.

So the Don’t Say Gay or Trans at work law, HB 599. It expressly regulates how charities and certain private businesses and human service organizations can train employees on LGBTQ issues. It expressly regulates whether or not they can conduct what is quote, “LGBTQ-related activities,” whatever that means. And it even regulates how employees can speak to each other. Quinn, what else about this bill, do you think is important to highlight?

Joe’s exactly right. This is a very concerning bill. And even under this bill, the state would attempt to withhold contracts from private businesses that don’t rubber stamp the position that trans people do not exist. And we’ve gone through the state contracts, and there’s many corporations that would be impacted. 26 of which are earning perfect scores on the human rights campaigns Equality Index. The government shouldn’t ban private businesses from putting into place cultural competency or sexual harassment trainings that include LGBTQ issues. And it has a ludicrous Bible or biology or religious exemption, that just creates a whole host of issues that threatens employee safety at work by allowing employees to openly disregard workplace policies and protections.

That one is really important. Sean, can I just put a highlight on that? So, you know, again, this is an example of a very long piece of legislation. But what the press and the public zeroed in on first was the provisions related to pronouns which I know that you mentioned. Which, again, are the government inserting itself, the state inserting itself, into the practices of private businesses and nonprofits to regulate how employees can or cannot talk to each other. Which, for me, is mind-blowing.

But this provision around the sweeping license to discriminate that’s built into this bill is a ticking time bomb. It is broad in the way that it’s drafted. And it effectively says that employees can invoke a sincerely held religious belief as a get-out-of-jail-free card for any policy or protection offered by their employer. Think about the implications that that would have on all private business in the state. This is a sweeping piece of legislation that we find to be one of the most dangerous filed.

SK: You mentioned how an employee could have a religious exemption. But I think there’s also is there a biology-based beliefs exemption. And what does that even mean?

Your guess is as good as ours.

Yeah, the state is definitely attempting to impose sex-based stereotypes to compel conformity for its normative vision of sex roles, rolling back the clock on all gender equity. And it’s not lost on us that the same administration that denies basic science in the efficacy of vaccines are now biological experts.

Sean, can I just make one other point on this one, too, which is, I’ll keep bringing us back to the same thing, which is, you know, it’s helpful to look at the fires, but it’s more helpful to look at who the arsonists are. So a few years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in a case — the United States Supreme Court ruled in a case called Bostock V. Clayton County, that discrimination on the basis of sex includes, is inclusive of, is encompassing of discrimination against the transgender community. The highest court in the land, a Republican conservative court, acknowledged the existence of transgender people and understood that under the US Civil Rights Act, transgender people deserve protection when it came to employment. Now, states across the country have inferred that to believe that transgender people, including Florida, also are afforded protections in housing and in public spaces that in civil rights law. They effectively recognize the existence of transgender people, and the fact that transgender people in United States experience discrimination sometimes.

So when we talk about looking at the forest for the trees, in these sweeping slates of bills, I think what we also see is an attempt to set up tension with these precedents established in federal court as high as the United States Supreme Court. The legislature at the bequest of this governor who has chosen to expand his political influence and career on the backs of marginalized communities, like the transgender community are trying to erode these protections that are afforded to them through federal law and through Supreme Court precedent. That is also what I think this is about. I think there are a bunch of different bills and a bunch of different vehicles and in a bunch of different ways, setting up a tension to try to erode protections that the transgender community in the LGBTQ community has already won.

SK: And that tension could end up leading to court challenges. And it being challenged up to superior courts, including the Supreme Court.

Absolutely. I mean, I think we see that most expressly this year in the “Trans Erasure” law, which I expect we might talk about soon. This is another sweeping piece of legislation. So again, you know, last year, we heard ‘Oh, well, this is just about health care. This is just you know, the gender-affirming care ban is just about transgender young people in the decisions that their parents make in alignment with their doctors about the health care that they received.’ And yet this year, we see a sweeping piece of legislation filed by Representative Black who is the chair of the Republican Party of Duvall County. So one of the most transphobic, and one of the most partisan members of the legislature, introducing a bill that attacks transgender people in basically every other facet of public life. A bill that tries to take away driver’s licenses from transgender adults tries to take away their ID cards. And also baked into that bill is an attempt to change the definitions and structure of the Florida Civil Rights Act so that it no longer includes by virtue of that Supreme Court case we just talked about Bostock v Clayton County protections for the transgender community. Effectively trying to rewrite state law to block access for transgender people to the protections afforded by the United States Supreme Court. Now, we don’t think that works. We think that’s blatantly unconstitutional. We don’t think state law can even be used to do that, but it is in the attempt that I think we see what the real strategy here is.

SK: That bill that Joe was talking about a second ago is called HB 1233. Again, filed last week by Dean Black, a Republican Representative from North Florida. And according to tweets by Carlos Guillermo Smith, he calls it a sweeping new assault on the rights and dignity of transgender Floridians that seek to deny their legal existence, create new barriers to medically necessary care and put anti-LGBTQ mandates on private insurance companies. Where do private insurance companies fit in here?

It’s wild. The hubris of this legislation, Quinn, let me take a stab at that question. But please, back me up with whatever I might miss. But, you know, there are a number of ways that this legislation inserts itself into the practices of private insurance providers in the state. The most egregious to me is the way that it requires all insurance policies in the state to pay for the debunked practice of conversion therapy. So the practice of a fake therapist or fake mental health provider — because at this point in, in the public discourse, no legitimate one is offering this practice. But it requires health insurance companies like Florida Blue, or Aetna to pay for this debunked practice. So this is where we are in 2024. In Florida, this legislature is willing to insert itself and mandate that insurance companies pay for the debunked practice of conversion therapy, but is not willing as a legislature to require that insurance companies lower your homeowners, homeowners insurance premiums or car insurance premiums. That is the extremism of this legislature in 2024.

And in addition to the requirement to cover conversion therapy, this bill would generally create new barriers to medically necessary life-saving care by requiring that health insurers that do offer gender-affirming care offer at a higher cost. So just increasing the prohibitiveness in access to gender-affirming care, which based on last year’s law is already very difficult to access even for adults. 80% of folks who used to receive their care through nurse practitioners now need to find somewhere else to get it.

SK: A few minutes ago, Joe mentioned that it would create barriers for transgender Floridians to getting driver’s licenses and other accurate IDs. How would it do that?

Sure, so this would prohibit the legal recognition for trans Floridians by denying access to accurate licenses and other IDs by requiring those state-issued ID cards to reflect someone’s sex assigned at birth. There would be no way to update your sex on your driver’s license. And everyone in the state would actually be required upon renewal or seeking for the very first time their driver’s license to sign a sex affidavit confirming that the sex on your application for your license matches your original birth certificate. Now attempts like this to deny trans folks access to accurate identification is very dangerous. It also forces them to make the impossible choice between full participation in public society and having basic human rights. For a lot of people, this could entirely dissuade them from obtaining Florida’s driver’s license, and in a dangerous way might contradict identity documents that they already hold from, let’s say the federal government — passports for instance, which you can update and which might reflect a different gender.

It’s probably helpful to say, Sean, it does this by anchoring all references of this law to what is designated on a person’s birth certificate at the time of birth. So, you know, there are many transgender Floridians who are members of Equality Florida, who are part of our world and our network, who had these documents updated 20-30 years ago, but what Representative Black’s bill would require is a pledge via affidavit that the information that you’re providing the DMV is reflective of what your birth certificate said maybe 50 years ago. And so if you misrepresent that information under threat of affidavit, the affidavit, the state now has legal rights to take action against you. And if you are not willing to lie, then you are forced to update all of your documents to a gender that you were assigned at birth that you don’t live every single day of your life. And the possibility of this revoking the licenses that have already been given to transgender Floridians in the state is very real. So in every way when we say This is the “Trans Erasure” bill this is intended to — it is designed to dismiss the very existence of transgender people in so many different areas of law. It is rewriting the statutes to make the assertion to infuse this ideological belief that transgender people don’t exist. And if they insist on existing that they should leave, right? That they are not welcome in Florida. And we think that is so very dangerous for so many reasons.

SK: The bill that we’re talking about right now is called HB 1233. They’re calling it the “Trans Erasure” law. One part of the bill has to do with data tracking and surveillance of transgender Floridians. Is that right?

That’s right. Yes, this bill would increase state-sponsored surveillance and government intrusion by requiring school districts and state agencies to collect data that necessarily outs transgender Floridians, which would have numerous implications for accurately tracking, let’s say, hate crimes against transgender people. But it would also, you know, create a lot of issues within privacy and protection against further political targeting and persecution.

And it is a mandate on all Floridians, Sean. This is the other important thing to say. This is, again, the hubris of this legislature. It requires all of these agencies to collect expressly — it’s another example of how this legislature will create law that is vague by design, with no thought about what implementation would really mean about how agencies are supposed to adapt. About what the budget implications for that would be. But it is a sweeping play of surveillance on all Floridians because it requires that all Floridians now be asked what their sex assigned at birth was — what this what the sex on their birth certificate is — for agencies that might not even collect that information. So it is intended to be this sweeping attack on a very small part of our community, but it will have implications and effect on the agencies that all of us interact with and interrelate with every day.

SK: Transgender Floridians, like other people have protections in housing, employment and public spaces. But if this bill becomes law, how might that change?

Well, I think this goes back to the discussion we’ve been hovering around the far right. And again, this is happening in multiple states. So I think it’s important for your listeners to understand this is not just a Florida strategy. This is the strategy of the far right that has been given free rein in our state, thanks to our governor. But the protections you’ve just referenced, come from United States Supreme Court precedents. And so I think what’s really happening here is a desire to create tension there. The state of Florida and this legislature don’t get to decide whether or not transgender people are protected in employment and housing. That comes from the United States Federal law, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to include protections for our community. Now that the natural progression is that those protections and that precedents and that understanding of laws and furred into the Florida Civil Rights Act. But what Representative Black is attempting to do here is to change the Florida Civil Rights Act to expressly exclude the transgender community. That creates a tension that would need to be mitigated and figured out through the courts. We think it is a sort of gross attempt to erase the experiences and rights of transgender Floridians. But it’s also a play that we don’t think would work.

SK: Earlier in the interview, you mentioned that there are about 15 bills or so that might take away the liberties of Floridians who are in the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve talked about three of them so far. Are there any others that our audience should know about?

Well, there is this one employment conditions preemption bill that we’re monitoring closely. That seeks to preempt local governments from regulating certain types of employment issues and practices that could jeopardize a number of local employment ordinances that provide benefits and protections for the LGBT community that are currently working well throughout the state. So we’re monitoring that.

There’s a lot of chatter in the juvenile justice space about making that same switch from gender to sex so that folks would be classified by their sex assigned at birth.

There is a single(-sex) student organization bill, which basically creates a single-sex student organization Bill of Rights. This is in response to discipline that was handed down to a Wyoming sorority that rejected a trans woman’s membership-based exclusively on her transgender status. So it would protect those single-sex student organizations from any type of administrative discipline at their schools.

There is an expansion of the so-called Stop WOKE prohibitions on the teaching of racism, sexism, oppression and privilege to teachers during their training period through the State Board of Education.

And again, bill filing deadline isn’t until Tuesday, midday, so we have still some time for things to trickle down. So those are just some of what we’re monitoring. Hopefully, you know, the list won’t go too long.

And many of those bills, Sean, have just dropped. You know, this is the nature of the of the legislative session here in Florida, as I know, you know. Things are sort of cooked, often not by the lawmakers filing them, and then strategically dropped into the legislative process just a few days before the bill filing deadline. So some of these bills, the juvenile justice bill, for example, that Quinn mentioned is a 70-page bill that at its first reading you might not even think has implications for the LGBTQ community. But because of where this legislature is because of the extreme anti-LGBTQ anti-transgender ideology that is, you know, promulgating permeating the conservative supermajorities that control both chambers. Right now, you know, it takes sometimes you got to spelunk through the language to figure out that this really is an egregious attack. So Equality Florida tries to be the team that leads the LGBTQ community and our movement through the policy analysis. We’re still processing a lot of this. But I don’t expect this is the end to the bills that will drop. I think we’ll see more between now and tomorrow. And then we’ll know where we are.

SK: Joe, you mentioned that the Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers, but Democrats who are in the superminority in both chambers are also filing bills of their own, for example, Democratic senator Tracy Davis filed bill, SB 1414, on education that she’s calling the “freedom to learn act.” Among other things in this bill, that would require instruction and LGBTQ history in public schools. So you know, I don’t know how much of a longshot most Democratic bills are to pass. But what do you what can you say about this bill and what it would mean for the learning of LGBTQ history by our students?

I’m really glad that you’ve taken us here because there are there really are two bills. A package of bills that have been introduced by lawmakers this year that we’ve we’ve helped to shape and provided some thoughts and analysis to.

The Freedom to Learn Act, introduced by Senator Tracy Davis and Representative Michele Rayner and the health care Freedom Act introduced by Representative Anna Eskamani and Senator Shevrin Jones. And I’m sure we can talk about both individually but as a package, these are bills that we believe, speak to where Floridians really are. Floridians don’t believe in in an agenda of censorship and surveillance. And so when we talk as a state about the Free State of Florida, we think these two bills is what that means. The freedom to learn act as it’s drafted allows agent development mentally appropriate K through 12 instruction in our K through 12 public schools on topics that include gender identity and sexual orientation, age and developmentally appropriate instruction. It permits the use of affirming titles, especially if a parent asserts it. If a parent asserts that they expect their transgender child to be respected and treated with dignity, and referred to as their gender identity, this allows for that. It ensures that schools don’t forcibly out students when it could endanger their safety. We wish and hope that every home is safe. But we also know that the Department of Children and Families and our child welfare system is some of the most underfunded and most in need. Sometimes it’s not safe for a school district or a teacher to out an LGBTQ student if the home environment isn’t ready for it. So this creates space for that. Quinn, the freedom to learn Act is a large bill that covers a lot of ground. What did I miss?

Yeah, so we’re repealing, as Joe mentioned, some of the provisions Don’t Say LGBTQ, but we’re also promoting truth and teaching and safeguarding access to books. So we’re narrowing who can submit an objection to instructional material. Right now, it stands that anyone in any county can. But this would narrow that to just the parent of a child who’s in a school within that school district. Again, it allows for the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity topics. And we talked earlier about how DEI initiatives on college campuses were being curtailed. Well, this would actually encourage those universities and state colleges to financially support DEI programming and campus activities and permit instruction about discrimination in general education, core classes, which is currently prohibited.

SK: Any last thoughts as we wrap up?

Well, I want to thank you, Sean, for giving us this platform. And I, you know, your station and your work is always valuable as we head into the legislative session season. You know, I do think this conversation can feel heavy. It can feel like there is a lot of bad that’s coming. And that’s true. But I also hope that folks recognize the absolute necessity of being involved in this process. Right now. You know, there were 22 anti-LGBTQ bills that were filed in the legislative session season in 2023. Many of them died. And of the ones that were passed, the language that I shared at the top of our time together was that many were consolidated. The substance of seventeen were consolidated into effectively eight vehicles that were signed into law. And lots of provisions were changed as a result of that. That pressure that comes from people calling their state lawmakers calling their state senators and state representatives making their way to Tallahassee. If you can, and you’d have the the ability to come join Equality Florida, in the Florida Capitol on Tuesday of next week. Last year, we had 300 Floridians from across the state join us to meet with their lawmakers. Those moments really, really matter. And if you can’t make it to Tallahassee, you can join Equality Florida’s advocacy programs at and learn more about how you can get involved online, how you can get involved in your local community. But those advocacy moments are how we stop bad things from happening and build a Florida where all of us are truly free, truly safe, and all of us are welcome.

Also on Tuesday Cafe (January 9):

We brought you a story from the Florida Keys. The state could decide to open the floodgates on development in the Keys. That could mean inviting thousands more building units than the Department previously determined the Keys could handle.

WMNF’s Tuesday Café

Tuesday Café airs weekly on WMNF beginning at 10:06 a.m. ET.

You can listen live on 88.5 FM in Tampa Bay, on or on the WMNF Community Radio app.

You can watch replays on TBAE Network Channels at 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Tuesdays on Spectrum 636, Frontier 34 and Or on demand.

You can listen anytime on demand on or by subscribing to the Tuesday Café podcast on your favorite podcast platform. – WMNF’s Tuesday Café with Seán Kinane.

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