By Kean Huy Alado
Florida has long been considered a popular destination for Americans whether it be to pass through our tropical tourist sites or to reside blissfully during retirement. However significant departures and boycotts by residents are becoming a reality.
On Aug. 8, Clark University and the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles reported that 40 percent of Floridian parents want to leave due to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law Governor Ron DeSantis passed last year. There have been more anti-LGBTQ+ laws and education regulations passed this year than ever before. A few have been blocked with preliminary injections awaiting trial.
Visit Florida’s recent report on tourism shows a lower appeal from last year with a decrease of 2.4 percent domestically and 1.2 percent globally. Under DeSantis’s extreme right-wing stance since 2019, the political state landscape has tainted the glow of our Sunshine State.
One of the state's main attractions, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, has condemned his rhetoric on children, leading DeSantis to take away their self-governing power—establishing a legal war between the two.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis and extremist legislators in Florida are some of the most anti-LGBTQ+ politicians in America,” said President Kelly Robinson Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest queer civil rights organization.
Queer Expression and Education
The “Don’t Say Gay” law from last March, referred to as Parental Rights on Education, restricts educational institutions from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students in kindergarten to the third grade.
DeSantis has since passed multiple bills condemned by the HRC for limiting freedoms and setting back the queer community centuries.
The first law was HB 1069, or the Don’t Say Gay Expansion law as critics call it, which expanded his education ban on gender and sexual expression from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. High school reproductive health courses are encouraged to teach “the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.”
He passed the Extreme Gender Affirming Care Ban (SB 254) which criminally punishes healthcare providers that give gender-affirming services to minors, stripping them of their licenses. Under this, insurance companies such as Medicaid would no longer be allowed to cover gender-affirming care for transgender youth or adults, though this provision has been paused awaiting trial.
The Anti-Trans Bathroom Law (HB 1521) was also signed and prohibits gender-inclusive restrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms in public. Transgender people are also banned from using facilities that affirm their identity.
Another bill signed was HB 1438, a drag show ban for minors prohibiting anyone under 18 from attending an “adult life performance.” This bill is currently blocked under a federal injection awaiting an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He passed these first four laws during a signing ceremony in May, where he spoke from a podium with a sign that read, “Let Kids Be Kids.”
Other controversial laws include SB 266 which expands the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act from last year, allowing the State University System of Florida to influence universities to restrict studies of the law theory critical race theory and gender studies by denying funding to college studies.
Another was the License to Discriminate in Healthcare law (SB 1580) which allows refusal of patient care and rejection of job applications by healthcare professionals for religious, moral, or ethical beliefs.
With some in effect and others under legal consideration, many queer Floridians and their families feel oppressed by simply living.
Disruption of Academia
The Governor and his administration have reportedly misrepresented African-American History in an academic setting by fixating on CRT. In July, DeSantis defended Florida’s new middle school curriculum, supported by the Florida State Board of Education and the Florida Department of Education, stating that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” implying slavery was good for slaves.
Democrats, university historians, and even former Vice President Mike Pence have criticized the Governor for the provision. Pence said DeSantis should “take another look” at the new teaching guidelines.
“He has certainly been spearheading these kinds of problematic, discriminatory, exclusionary, and dangerous policies and practices in Florida,” said history and Black Diaspora instructor Paula Austin.
Moreover, former Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas said, “[Slavery] was literally dehumanizing and subjugated people as property,” condemning the provision.
“He’s targeting specific groups in the state with many of the laws he is passing,” said psychology sophomore Lisa Lombard. “There’s no way everyone can possibly be okay with teaching children and high school students that slavery was beneficial to both slaves and their masters.”
Recently, he also drew criticism from student activists and politicians for unconditionally supporting Israel in their current conflict against Hamas, the governing terrorist group in Gaza at war with Israel following an Oct. 7 attack, amid the humanitarian crisis of the larger Palestinian people.
He has since demanded a shutdown of pro-Palestinian groups in state colleges under the pretense of possibly being associated with Hamas.
“You have a right to go out and demonstrate, but you can’t provide material support to terrorism,” he said to NBC.
Right-wing critics claim DeSantis’s previous demands to remove antisemitic groups violate the First Amendment. But according to State Representative Randy Fine, he voiced “almost nothing” regarding the antisemitic incident which involved Neo-Nazis assaulting a rabbi and a sign on a highway overpass that read, “Gas the Jews.” Fine is the only Jewish Republican in the state legislature.
There is a completely Republican legislature who have just as much control over our local issues. And whether you support him and the legislative majority or not—approve of what they have done so far or not—they are what the majority of our state voted for last November.