What is Going On in DeSantis's Florida?

By Hubert Plummer posted 04-24-2023 10:31 AM


Let’s take a moment to look at the lunacy coming out of Florida.  The Governor and the Legislature of Florida, which is controlled by the Republicans, have been pushing some seriously dangerous and frightening bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender kids.

The Florida legislature is made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives.  The Senate is made of 40 seats, 28 Republican and 12 Democrat, or 70% Republicans.  The House of Representative has 120 seats, 84 Republican and 35 Democrats and one empty seat. That is 70% Republican.  The Republicans have what is known as a super-majority in both houses.[i] [ii]  A supermajority gives the Republicans an immense amount of power to do whatever they want.  They have the power to override a veto by the Governor.  There is little change of a meaningful opposition party.  Republicans will not have to work with Democrats to craft legislation, they will be able to force their own views on the State.

The LGBTQ+ community has become the target of Republican’s wrath, the under-represented minority group of the moment that they will take their frustrations out on.  Here are some of the recent attempts:

            Not only did they renew and expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law[iii], the Florida House has passed a law that will punish businesses that let children in to watch entertainment deemed “live adult entertainment”.[iv]  The Florida Senate has already passed an identical bill and it is on its way to Governor DeSantis for signature.  Tere are already laws restricting kids from entering strip clubs and bars and so on.  This law was crafted to allow the government to stop kids themed drag events.  Kid themed drags events have become a great target for conservatives, allowing them to accuse others of child grooming, sexual predation, corruption of morals and who knows what else.

            This is just absurd.  Generally these events are story times at a local library or book store.  A performer in drag will sit and read a children’s book for the kids. Parents and Librarians are usually present.  Drag performers are just that, performers. They can be funny and act out scenes in the book.  They can be over the top and silly.  The kids love it.  There is absolutely nothing sexual about it.  Yet, conservatives have latched onto this because it is unusual enough that they can frame it as a danger to kids.

            Next the Florida House passed a law requiring people to use the bathroom that conforms to the gender assigned at birth.   They claim that this will protect women and children from predators.  A recent study by UCLA School of Law showed no correlation between transgender use of restroom and criminal incidents.[v]  Men are just not dressing as women to access women’s restrooms.  These laws punish trans people who want nothing more than to fit in.  It will require trans men, who may have been on testosterone for years, and have grown a beard and big muscles, to use the women’s restroom.  I think will make the cis women a lot more uncomfortable.  This one hasn’t cleared the Senate yet, but is in the pipeline.

            The House has also passed a bill outlawing gender conforming treatments for trans kids.  This includes surgery, hormones, and hormone blockers.  Medical protocols do not include surgery for minors.  Puberty blockers do not do any permanent harm, in fact they provide the child the opportunity to grow and gain experience before doing anything permanent.  These bills were called a “Thunderdome of Hate” by Democrats.[vi]

            Both houses have passed Bill 254 that gives the Florida government the power to remove children from their parent’s custody if they are receiving or planning on receiving any gender affirming care.[vii]  This bill requires doctors and hospitals to file paperwork with the State saying that they will not provide such care and they face license revocation if they fail to file.  It creates a civil cause of action to sue a provider for providing such care, for up to 20 years after the treatment.

            Florida is not alone in attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.  I chose to discuss Florida because it is the most egregious example at this time.  These attacks on trans people’s civil rights and liberties is happening all over the United States.[viii] 

            Now, this is my opinion and not that of NYSBA or the Committee on Civil Rights.  Republicans run and govern on fear.  They need a danger to scare people into voting for them.  We’ve seen it a million times.  The “caravan” of immigration that was going to over-run the country, the fear that Democrats are going to take their guns away, being soft on crime and letting dangerous criminals walk the streets.  All nonsense. Now they have settled on the made up danger to our kids from drag performers and gender affirming care.  They claim that children are being mutilated and forced to change their genders.  They claim that adults are letting the kids identify as anything they can think of.  A completely baseless rumor that a classroom had a litterbox for kids that identify as cats to use as a bathroom is still out there.

            These Republican leaders claim to care about protecting the children, yet gun violence is the number one killer of children.[ix]  We know how they feel about guns and the rights of gun owners.  Their solution to gun violence is more guns.

            We are seeing what the Republican led states do when they have no real opposition, like in Florida.  They immediately start limiting the rights of people.  They attack anyone who speaks out, like Disney.  Disney says it creates over 18 billion dollars of economic activity in the State.  They account for 1 out of 50 jobs in the State and they provide 2.5% of the States cumulative gross domestic product.[x]  They are one of the biggest employers in the State. Yet Republican Governor Ron DeSantis feels compelled to punish Disney because they opposed his “Don’t Say Gay” law.  DeSantis clearly doesn’t have the best interests of Floridians in mind if he is willing to punish one of the largest economic forces in the State.

            LGBTQ+ people, and especially children, are one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the country.  They are an easy target for Republicans.  LGBTQ+ people have been around as long as humans have been around.  The category exists in the animal kingdom as well.  It is not a choice, nor is it a disease.  It just is.  LGBTQ+ people deserve the same rights as all humans especially in the United States.

            To those Republican lawmakers that so revere the founding fathers, I would remind them what Thomas Jefferson said in his First Inaugural Address, “All too will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression.” [xi] In other words, it is the duty of the majority to protect the rights of the minority.

            The Florida Republicans are choosing oppression.

The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission.  It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.

[ii] In Florida, a supermajority is 66%, other jurisdictions can set their own definition of supermajority.