Pride at the Capitol 2024 participants. (Photo via Equality Florida’s Facebook)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Hundreds of LGBTQ+ advocates rallied in Tallahassee for Equality Florida’s Pride at the Capitol Kick-Off Jan. 16-17, a weekly campaign designed to combat what the organization calls “the 60 most dangerous days in Florida.”
Florida’s 2024 legislative session began Jan. 9 with “an alarming slate of over 20 new anti-LGBTQ bills,” Equality Florida notes. They include House Bill 599 and Senate Bill 1392, which they call “Don’t Say Gay or Trans at Work,” and HB 1233 and HB 1639, the “Trans Erasure Bill.”
The bills “are fueled by a sinister belief that transgender people do not exist and that government should be weaponized to exclude them from public life,” Equality Florida said in a press release. “Instead of focusing on the real problems facing Floridians, lawmakers are continuing their obsession with culture war attacks in service to [Governor Ron] DeSantis’ failed agenda of division, censorship and government control.”
“Floridians are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives,” added Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. “We’ve had enough of DeSantis and right-wing lawmakers forcing censorship and surveillance into every part of our lives.
“We will decide what medical care we and our families need, not politicians,” he continued. “We will not hand our schools over to fringe groups who refuse to protect every student and respect every family. We will resist the stripping away of our rights everywhere extremism threatens our freedom. It is time for state legislators to undo the harm and work for the good of our state, not for the Governor’s political ambitions.”
Attendees included representatives from PFLAG Safety Harbor and Drag2Talle, of which Equality Florida’s TransAction Special Events Coordinator Angelique Godwin was an original organizer. She spoke out against “the relentless harassment and demonization perpetuated by Governor DeSantis and his extremist allies for their cynical political purposes” and more.
“Our community deserves equality under the law and the right to live authentically without being weaponized for divisive agendas,” Godwin said. “DeSantis’ extremist rhetoric not only undermines our liberty but has also made Florida less safe. We are not pawns in a political game; we are people with the right to dignity, equality, and a life free from constant slander and discrimination.”
Organizers also utilized Pride at the Capitol to praise legislation sponsored by state Sen. Shevrin Jones and Central Florida’s Rep. Anna Eskamani dubbed the “Health Care Freedom Act.” Equality Florida says it “would restore Floridians’ fundamental rights and freedoms to make their own personal healthcare decisions without political interference.”
“Extreme politicians have stripped away the personal freedoms and parental rights of Floridians while paying lip service to those fundamental liberties,” Eskamani said. “The Health Care Freedom Act restores the fundamental rights and freedoms of Floridians to make their own personal and potentially life-saving healthcare decisions without political interference.”
“This is about protecting patients, providing them dignity and autonomy and aligning our policies with the values of freedom,” added Jones.
Equality Florida also celebrated the introduction of the “Freedom to Learn Act” by state Sen. Tracie Davis and Tampa Bay’s Rep. Michele Rayner. It would “undo the many harms DeSantis inflicted upon Floridians,” allowing “age-appropriate K-12 instruction on topics including gender identity and sexual orientation” and more.
“A single objector should not be able to overrule parents and ban books for every child,” Rayner said. “But Governor DeSantis has turned schools over to these book-banning extremists who censor and whitewash history and relentlessly attack LGBTQ people, students of color, and families who don’t look or think like them.
“We cannot stand by and allow our youth to be indoctrinated into ignorance,” she continued. “Real freedom is a Florida where every student is protected, and every family is respected.”
Watch Equality Florida’s full press conference in Tallahassee and view photos below: