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Advocates blast spate of anti-LGBTQ bills filed this week

Equality Florida calls this the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda in recent memory.

Advocacy groups are blasting the introduction of a package of anti-LGBTQ bills filed earlier this week, just hours before the deadline to file new bills for this year’s session.

If all of the legislation is passed, it would make it a felony for doctors to change the sex of a minor (HB 1365), repeal local employment anti-discrimination protections due to sexual orientation and gender identity (HB 305), repeal local ordinances protecting LGBTQ youth from so-called “conversion therapy” and block local governments from enacting future bans (CS/HB 3) and allow conversion therapy if it’s practiced in a home (HB 537).

The bills are sponsored by Republican State Reps. Anthony Sabatini of Howey-in-the-Hills, Bob Rommel of Naples, Michael Grant of Port Charlotte and Byron Donalds of Naples. Senate sponsors include Sens. Dennis Baxley of Lady Lake (SB 1864), Joe Gruters of Sarasota (SB 1126) and Keith Perry of Gainesville (SB 778).

Sabatini wrote on Facebook that no parent should be allowed to sterilize, castrate, or permanently disfigure a child.  

But Equality Florida and Democrats are expressing their outrage over what they say are harmful and cruel pieces of legislation. 

“This is the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory,” said Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s public policy director. “It runs the gamut from openly hostile legislation that would arrest and imprison doctors for providing medically necessary care, to legislation that would carelessly erase critical local LGBTQ protections.”

State Rep. Shevrin Jones, an openly LGBTQ Democrat from West Park, said in a statement that he will continue to fight any legislation that marginalizes or threatens any Floridian’s shot at a secure, safe, and bright quality of life.

Gruters, who bill is the Senate companion to Rommel’s House legislation, denies that it is anti-LGBTQ. He said it doesn’t authorize an employer to discriminate against people protected from discrimination by federal law.

“While I don’t believe the bill has any impact on local anti-discrimination ordinances, in an abundance of caution, I included language in the bill’s preamble to make clear that the preemption would not effect anti-discrimination laws and any court would court would interpret the preemption consistent with preamble,” he said.

Rommel’s bill repealing workplace protections for LGBTQ individuals passed out of its first committee Wednesday with a 9-5 vote. The five members of Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee who voted no include State Reps. Loranne Ausley of Tallahassee, Kamia Brown of Ocoee, Dan Daley of Coral Springs, Tracie Davis of Jacksonville and Cindy Polo of Miramar. 

Grant’s measure repealing existing and blocking future conversion therapy bans also passed out of its first committee yesterday. He has since filed a committee substitute that includes changes around some of the language concerning journeyman licenses. 

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith took to Twitter Wednesday blasting his Republican colleagues for the spate of anti-LBGTQ legislation.

“It’s hard to believe that this is a legislature where three LGBTQ members are proudly and openly serving, but it is. THIS is what it feels like to be kicked in the gut by your colleagues. I am so utterly offended and disappointed,” he wrote.

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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