Equality Florida, supporters oppose state’s anti-LGBTQ bills

ABOVE: Equality Florida Lobby Days. Photo via Equality Florida/Facebook.

TALLAHASSEE | Equality Florida and supporters are preparing for what the organization has called “the most dangerous 60 days in our state,” now underway in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature.

The 2022 legislative session began Jan. 11 and is scheduled to end March 11. “Florida lawmakers who congratulated themselves last year for passing the state’s first explicitly anti-LGBTQ bill in 24 years have now staked their political ambitions on a slate of anti-LGBTQ, anti-democratic bills,” Equality Florida warns.

Filed legislation includes Florida House Bill 211, one of the organization’s top priorities. The “Youth Gender and Sexual Identity” bill seeks to criminalize health care practitioners who provide gender-affirming care for trans youth.

“This Care Ban is government overreach – wedging politicians between a young person, their parents, and their doctor,” Equality Florida advises. “It harms public health by imprisoning doctors for providing life-saving medical care. This is an outrageous attack on some of Florida’s most at-risk young people.”

They also oppose HB 747 and Senate Bill 1820, introduced as offering “protections of medical conscience.” Republican lawmakers are seeking to create a “health care ethics and liberty protection act” that gives “health care providers and health care payors … the right not to participate in or pay for any health care services that violate their conscience.”

“No one should be denied critical medical care, but the Health Care Refusal bill would allow healthcare providers and insurers to deny a patient any sort of care on the basis of religious, moral or ethical beliefs,” Equality Florida explains. “The legislation also creates a license to discriminate by allowing for employment discrimination in healthcare.  It prioritizes the beliefs of healthcare providers above a patient’s well-being.”

HB 1557 and SB 1834, “Parental Rights in Education,” are also strongly opposed. The bills would prohibit school districts from “encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels” and more.

Calling it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Equality Florida notes “our community won’t go back in the closet and won’t be erased.” They assert “the bill’s vague language appears to be designed to attack support systems in schools for LGBTQ youth to be themselves.” It passed its first Florida House Committee on a party-line vote Jan. 20:

The organization has also spoken out about HB 7 and SB 148. “Culture war Republicans are pushing the ‘Stop WOKE Act’ in an effort to tear Floridians apart for political gain,” Equality Florida stresses. “The legislature should be addressing the issues of everyday Floridians, not censoring workplaces and schools from teaching honest LGBTQ history, Black history, the root causes of injustice and discrimination and more.”

Equality Florida adds that these and other bills “aim to turn Florida into a 21st century surveillance state, empowering the DeSantis Administration and state legislators to police classrooms, doctor’s offices and workplaces.” Openly LGBTQ State Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando and Michele Rayner of Tampa Bay are among the Democratic lawmakers opposed to such measures, something they discussed during a press conference Jan. 20:

Supporters from throughout the state are encouraged to speak out as well. Equality Florida’s 2022 Lobby Days Program will take place in person Feb. 7-8 at the Florida Capitol and virtually Feb. 9-11.

The experience provides training, allows participants to meet with lawmakers and “is a critical moment for LGBTQ Floridians and our allies,” organizers note.

“You will help advocate for pro-equality bills and fight against the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation,” they explain. “As a citizen lobbyist, you will have the opportunity to share your story with lawmakers, discuss policy and issues important to you, and come together with over a hundred other LGBTQ advocates and allies just like YOU!”

For more information about Equality Florida’s Lobby Days and to RSVP, visit EQFL.org/LobbyDays and visit the Facebook event page. To read the organization’s full 2022 Legislative Slate, click here.

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