Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ war on the LGBTQ community continued in the first week of May when the State Senate passed a broad bathroom bill, an expanded version of the existing “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law in schools, and legislation allowing doctors and insurance companies to deny treatment to LGBTQ patients. All three bills have cleared both houses of the State Legislature, paving the way for the governor to sign them into law.
As if those bills weren’t enough, Florida House Republicans also passed a bill barring colleges from using state or federal dollars for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The State Senate already approved the measure, which will also be delivered to the governor’s desk.
The “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill — which previously barred public school classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity through third grade — was expanded to cover eighth grade under the new law, though the state’s Board of Education already moved last month to expand the policy to all grades except for instruction that “is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”
The bathroom bill that passed the upper chamber on May 3 stipulates that individuals must use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender assigned at birth and calls for separate men’s and women’s bathrooms in state and local government buildings. The lower house, after passing a broader bill covering commercial establishments, subsequently approved the State Senate’s version of the legislation.
“This bill criminalizes transgender people for using the restroom that aligns with how they live their lives every day,” Equality Florida public policy director Jon Harris Maurer said in a written statement. “This bill opens the door to abuse, mistreatment, and dehumanization. Our state government should be focused on solving pressing issues, not terrorizing people who are simply trying to use the restroom.”
The bathroom bill declares that those who are 18 years or older can be charged with second-degree misdemeanor for “trespassing” if they use a bathroom or changing facility that does not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth and refuse to leave. Local schools will be mandated to come up with rules to punish students who violate it.
State Senator Victor Torres of Kissimmee, who has a trans grandchild, said on May 3 that the bathroom bill could lead to confrontations that could easily escalate.
“Somebody out there is going to take that into his or her own hands into stopping somebody who’s transgender from using a bathroom,” Torres said.
Meanwhile, the healthcare bill — which passed by 50 votes in the lower house and a 28-11 party line vote in the State senate — gives doctors and insurers the ability to use “conscience” as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ patients. The law gives providers and insurers protection if they refuse to perform a medical procedure, but no specific procedures were explicitly mentioned, prompting Democrats in the state to rip their GOP lawmakers for crafting a bill with vague language.
“The sponsor of the bill purports that this bill doesn’t discriminate,” said Democrat Michele Rayner-Goolsby of Tampa Bay, according to the Florida Phoenix . “But listen, y’all. I am old enough, I am Black enough, and I am queer enough, and I’m woman enough to know that the impact of this bill — and I would argue the very intent of this bill is to discriminate against folks.”