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‘Don’t Say Gay’ law looms over Pride in Wilton Manors

Parade to take place in LGBTQ-friendly Fla. city on June 18

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The annual Pride parade in Wilton Manors, Fla., will take place on June 18, 2022, against the backdrop of Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed earlier this year. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

WILTON MANORS, Fla. — This year’s Pride celebration in Wilton Manors will take place against the backdrop of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed earlier this year.

The Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival will take place in Wilton Manors on June 18.

“This Pride Month is different than previous Pride months because we see the attack on the LGBTQ community and because we see that the attack has taken place on the LGBTQ community,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview.

Jones represents District 35, which includes portions of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, in the Florida Senate. Jones in 2020 became the first openly gay man elected to the chamber.

The South Florida Democrat on March 7 became emotional when he discussed his own coming out in a speech against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill on the Florida Senate floor before his colleagues approved it. DeSantis signed it into law — which has been challenged in federal court — less than a month later.

Wilton Manors’ Pride events will also take place less than a month after DeSantis’ administration asked the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, a board that regulates doctors in the state, to essentially ban transgender-specific health care for children and teenagers.

“The flags are being raised higher now more than ever because it’s not just the physical flag, it’s the flag of our voices, it’s the flag of our advocacy that’s being raised in this moment,” said Jones, referring to Pride Month. “There is a group of people who are trying to silence the LGBTQ community.”

Brandon Wolf, press secretary for Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, in a statement to the Blade noted “the chilling impacts of the bigoted ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law are already being felt across the state, even before it has gone into effect.”

“Books with LGBTQ characters are being ripped from shelves. Graduation speeches are being censored. Rainbow ‘safe space’ stickers are being peeled from classroom windows. And there is an uneasy climate that is causing educators to leave the work they love in order to avoid discrimination.” said Wolf, who survived the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando that left his two close friends, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and his fiancé, Juan Guerrero, and 47 other people dead.

“All of that makes Pride as critical as ever this year,” he added. “Pride has always been a protest. It has always been a resistance to injustice and a demand for equality. This Pride, people across the country are called upon to let Pride inspire them to get civically engaged, to recommit to the fight to protect LGBTQ young people, and hold accountable those who are working to undermine progress and erode our civil liberties.”

SunServe is a Wilton Manors-based foundation that provides housing, mental health and other services to more than 5,000 LGBTQ people through its offices in the city and in neighboring Fort Lauderdale. SunServe is among the groups that plan to participate in the Stonewall Pride Parade and Festival.

“SunServe enters this Pride Month with a lot of enthusiasm and celebrating our foundation’s 20th anniversary,” noted Tony Lima, the foundation’s CEO.

Lima, like Wolf and Jones, acknowledged the “Don’t Say Gay” law will impact Pride in Wilton Manors.

“It will be a Pride with more focus on our young people,” Lima told the Blade. “Young people are our future and we must protect them and give them the opportunity to live full and happy lives.”

Florida lawmakers earlier this year approved their state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Arianna’s Center is another Wilton Manors-based organization that serves trans women throughout South Florida.

The organization this past weekend participated in a Pride parade in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. Arianna’s Center staffers also plan to attend Pride Month events with the Mexican Consulate in Miami and with the Miami Police Department.

“June is not Pride (Month) for many of our clients, so we celebrate this month with a lot of responsibility, with the hope of having equality and that the transgender community is heard,” said Arianna Lint, the group’s CEO. “We have many wishes for improvement, equality and equity for the trans community. We cannot celebrate while there are trans people incarcerated for no reason and with no social services that help them.”

Lint also acknowledged the “Don’t Say Gay” law has adversely impacted Florida’s LGBTQ community.

“Everyone is affected and everyone must work together and not just in groups or an elite club,” she said. “This affects everyone and we must unite to be able to better work together to eradicate this and other types of bills that affect us.”

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this article.

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Florida

DeSantis reelected in Fla.

Republican incumbent signed state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

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(YouTube screenshot)

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday defeated Democrat Charlie Crist in the state’s gubernatorial election.

DeSantis as of 8:12 p.m. ET was ahead of Crist by a 57.5-41.9 percent margin with 74 percent of the total number of votes counted.

DeSantis, who signed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law earlier this year, narrowly defeated Democrat Andrew Gilliam in 2018. DeSantis, who is a former congressman, is expected to run for president in 2024.

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Florida

Fla. rule would effectively ban gender-affirming care for minors

State surgeon general asked for regulation

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The Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine Joint Rules/Legislative Committee has advanced a rule that would effectively ban gender-affirming care for minors in the state. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine Joint Rules/Legislative Committee Friday advanced a rule that would effectively ban gender-affirming care for minors in the state. 

The policy, which would likely block a minor’s access to puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries — a rare intervention for transgender youth — will now head to the full the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathy for finalization and a vote. 

It came after the Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo in June asked the board to establish a standard for “complex and irreversible” gender-affirming care treatments. Ladapo recommended against certain pharmaceutical, non-pharmaceutical and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria. Puberty blockers, a form of gender-affirming care, are reversible.

Major medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth. The group, in a statement, said it “strongly oppose[s] any legislation or regulation that would discriminate against gender-diverse individuals, including children and adolescents, or limit access to comprehensive evidence-based care which includes the provision of gender-affirming care.”

Still, Ladapo called the scientific evidence supporting gender-affirming care “extraordinarily weak.”

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely to run for president in 2024, holds tremendous power over the board. Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, said the board was stacked with “right-wing extremists” and “subverted into weapons against LGBTQ Floridians.”

During the meeting, the committee heard from scheduled presenters meant to act as experts on gender-affirming care and members of the public. Before the meeting, one of the experts, Dr. James Cantor, was quietly removed from the agenda after it was revealed that he advocated for pedophiles to be included under the LGBTQ umbrella, according to Media Matters

Oxford University sociology professor Michael Biggs, who did speak to the board, has posted transphobic tweets in the past, according to the Oxford Student, the college’s student newspaper. 

LGBTQ activists and state representatives called into question the fairness of the speakers. According to Florida Planned Parenthood Action, two state representatives, Democrats Anna Eskamani and Carlos Smith, “begged” the board to let public comment continue. 

“It is totally unacceptable for a public Board to permit only speakers who agree with the board members’ position to testify, and then refuse to permit others from the public with a different perspective to speak,” tweeted Florida state Rep. Ben Diamond, a Democrat. 

After the board cut off public comment, the crowd began to chant: “Let them speak.”

Smith called the meeting a “sham,” adding: “They put all the speakers from out of state and out of the country who agreed with them first. When they ran out of people on their side, they cut off public comment from Floridians OPPOSED to the politicization of gender affirming care.”

“Just disgusting,” tweeted Jack Petocz, a political strategist for Gen-Z for Change.

The board also heard from several so-called “detransitioners” who spoke in favor of the rule. 

However, those who receive gender-affirming care rarely decide not to continue with treatment. A recent study published in “The Lancet” found that 98 percent of people who had started gender-affirming medical treatment in adolescence continued to use gender-affirming hormones at follow-up.

“It needs to be repeated without end: gender-affirming care is lifesaving care,” said Equality Florida Transgender Equality Director Nikole Parker.

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Fla. Department of Education approves new anti-LGBTQ rules

Governor earlier this year signed state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

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(Photo courtesy of Equality Florida)

As school districts across the state and particularly in Southwest Florida struggle to reopen after the massive damage inflicted by Hurricane Ian, the deadliest hurricane to strike the state of Florida since the 1935 Labor Day storm, the Florida Department of Education voted unanimously Wednesday on new rules designed to intimidate school districts and teachers that affirm LGBTQ students.

Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, noted that the Florida Department of Education with these new rules has expanded the enforcement of House Bill 1557, the “Don’t Say LGBTQ” law. One rule passed Wednesday threatens teachers with termination of both their job and education certificate if they are found to have engaged in “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“The Board of Education’s move to target individual teachers’ jobs and licenses is another cruel attack from an administration that has spent months punching down at Florida’s LGBTQ youth and families,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. “Qualified, effective teachers are fleeing the profession in Florida thanks to the constant politicization of their roles and discrediting of their characters by the DeSantis administration. Rather than help to clarify the ‘Don’t Say LGBTQ’ law’s scope, the Board of Education has taken this bigoted law to yet another extreme, threatening teachers if they dare to acknowledge LGBTQ families in the classroom. This escalation in deference to the far right agenda of the governor makes our schools less inclusive — and less safe.”

Nearly 100 LGBTQ advocates attended the Board of Education meeting today in Orlando, and more than 1,000 people sent messages to board members in support of teachers, families and LGBTQ students.

Another rule passed Wednesday targets school districts with policies that allow transgender students safe access to bathrooms and locker rooms. While not denying those facilities to transgender and nonbinary students, the new rule requires school districts notify parents in the district if they have a policy allowing bathrooms or locker rooms to be separated on a basis “other than biological sex at birth.”

“The Board of Education’s facilities separation rule does not and cannot prevent transgender students from accessing facilities aligned with their gender identity — we know Federal law and the constitution protect these rights. Florida school districts have been following federal law for more than a decade, establishing policies we know will continue to work long after this politically-motivated proposed rule. What it does do is attempt to bully and intimidate districts that are providing these accommodations. Ron DeSantis’ war on transgender Floridians must end. All students deserve access to school facilities that are inclusive and safe,” added Saunders.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, a former state senator who sponsored the “Don’t Say Gay/LGBTQ” law, has been leading the efforts against Florida’s LGBTQ students.

In July he issued a memo instructing school districts to ignore Title IX nondiscrimination protections for trans students, threatening costly penalties even though federal law and case law require accommodations for trans youth.

LGBTQ-inclusive school district policies are still supported by federal protections that exist to provide safe, welcoming spaces for all students. The Biden administration has issued guidance instructing schools to comply with Title IX protections against discrimination on the basis of sex, which is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.

School districts must continue supporting LGBTQ students, creating safe, inclusive environments, and implementing the bigoted “Don’t Say LGBTQ” law as narrowly as possible to mitigate the harms it is inflicting on students and families.

 

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