LGBTQ advocates sound alarm on expanding so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation into workplace
When pulling the bullying portal, the department removed links to state anti-bullying policy, LGBTQ advocacy groups and other bullying prevention resources.

People in a gay pride parade
The Pride Chamber and Equality Florida said a Ryan Chamberlin bill extends anti-trans policy into the professional world.

The latest proposed restriction on where sexuality can be discussed has LGBTQ advocates worried.

At a press conference on Orlando, LGBTQ business leaders and political advocates condemned a bill threatening state funding for certain organizations. They noted a broad reading of the bill (HB 599) would make it virtually impossible for transgender Floridians to live in the state.

“This is the Don’t Say Gay or trans at work bill,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, senior policy advisor for Equality Florida.

Rep. Ryan Chamberlin, a Belleview Republican, filed the legislation in November, and he characterized the bill as a protection to conservatives who don’t accept a gender ideology. The bill would prohibit any state funding going to nonprofits that require LGBTQ sensitivity training.

“Only if they receive taxpayer funding from the state and force any pronoun, gender identity or woke training to be required for employment,” Chamberlin told Florida Politics. “They also cannot force the use of or penalize their employees for the lack of use of these pronouns or gender identities in their workplace.”

But critics said the bill as filed reaches far beyond, arguing it censors for individuals to even ask co-workers to use a different pronoun than the one assigned at birth.

If passed as written, the state would officially take a policy “that a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.”

In addition to saying no contractor must be required to use different pronouns for employees, the bill also says an employee cannot even provide a preferred pronoun to an employer.

Rep. Rita Harris, an Orlando Democrat, said the legislation regulates businesses in ways fiscal conservatives should oppose.

“It’s not only discriminatory to target this committee the way it has been targeted, but it’s also bad for business,” Harris said.

The legislation notably has no Senate companion right now, providing no clear path forward, but after anti-LGBTQ bills in the Legislature found life in Session repeatedly, advocates won’t take any chances.

Denise Merritt, Board Chair for The Pride Chamber, said she’s appealing directly to lawmakers to quash this bill early.

“This law hits close to home affecting businesses, especially our cherished LGBTQ nonprofits,” she said. “It puzzles me as Republicans usually champion less government and business. Yet here we are facing an intrusion into how employers address their employees and how employees may want to be addressed.”

For some organizations, the bill represents an existential threat by prohibiting state funding to groups dedicated to serving an LGBTQ clientele.

George Wallace, CEO for The Center Orlando, said his organization for years has reached out to gay populations to provide HIV prevention and health care services. Heather Wilkie, executive director of Zebra Youth, provides housing and mental health services to LGBTQ youth, who make up about 40% of all homeless youth by some estimates.

Both organizations in recent years saw funding approved by the Florida Legislature by vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. This legislation, though, represents a threat to the group’s entire mission, with a threat the state could dissolve the charities that serve an LGBTQ population.

Advocates paint the bill as the latest expansion of a state fight against LGBTQ equality, something many felt stepped up first with a ban on trans girls in female school sports but which has continued to bathroom segregation laws, transgender health care restrictions, a drag show limitations already deemed unconstitutional, and most notoriously, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which restricts classroom instruction that mentions sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This is another example of erasing transgender experience, of erasing the concept of gender identity, and another vehicle to demonize the transgender community, and we’re seeing this manifested in violence against the community all across the country,” said Gina Duncan, Equality Florida Central Florida’s development director.

“Why? Because a particular governor has a vision, as you might know, said he wants to make America Florida, and he wants a classic, conservative, extremist, fascist state that is conservative, does not embrace diversity, and certainly doesn’t embrace the LGBTQ community.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Linwood Wright

    December 11, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    “Small Government” my a$$.
    Republicans are a fvcking joke.

    • Julia

      December 11, 2023 at 6:03 pm

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  • Uri Abor

    December 11, 2023 at 3:17 pm

    Don’t know what pronoun to use? Don’t use a pronoun. Insist on everybody else talking according to your rules? Shut up. You’re a bore.

    • TJC

      December 11, 2023 at 4:40 pm

      Harshly said, but I agree insisting “on everybody else talking according to your rules” is a problem. Telling people to shut up is a problem too. I think your advice “Don’t use a pronoun,” is good advice, almost like a Dear Abby pearl of wisdom: nobody gets offended, and nobody is forced to follow some “rule.”

  • Earl Pitts "The Ronald's Un-Official Campaign Manager" American

    December 11, 2023 at 3:24 pm

    Good Afternoon America,
    Well with the homertestical population amounting to 2% of the population and lets say 1/2 of that group actually get out and vote …. really, America, whats the big deal?
    Thank you America,

    • rick whitaker

      December 11, 2023 at 4:18 pm


  • Michael K

    December 11, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    To protect conservatives? As if. Start with outlawing three ways from republican legislators first, hypocrites. See where that goes.

  • My Take

    December 11, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    First they came for the gays,
    But I wasn ‘t gay….
    Republicans are scum. Fascist scum.
    My Take (His Excellency, His Excellency)

  • TJC

    December 11, 2023 at 4:50 pm

    Another Florida Legislator with no solutions to the insurance debacle in the state comes up with another way to attack a minority, as if the Governor’s not doing enough of that. And with no limits in sight, he extends restrictions that were supposedly just “to protect children” up to third grade, which then got extended to eighth grade, then 12th grade, and then to colleges and universities, he now says taa-daaaa, we’ll not stop at Disney, we’ll tell every orgnanization and business in the State what can and cannot be said — because we don’t like being told what should be said! Conservatives need protection from words!

  • Dont Say FLA

    December 11, 2023 at 5:07 pm

    The world did in fact end when unwed ladies coined the pronoun “Ms.” so they could be addressed as something other than chattel.

    Therefore, I can totally understand the right’s stance against further pronoun changes. We can’t have the world ending a second time, can we?

  • rbruce

    December 11, 2023 at 6:36 pm

    As a Conservative, the Gov’t should not tell private companies if they want to force their employees to address other employees in a certain way. If one doesn’t like a company policy, then change it or work for someone else. Public tax dollars should not be used to force speech against all sanity. A dude may look like a lady, but he’s not. If the Alphabet lobby wants to force one to call a male a female, then they must accept contrary policies. Why must 90%+ change to attempt to please a tiny segment of the population?

    • rick whitaker

      December 11, 2023 at 8:44 pm

      rbruce, ” as a conservative ” how do you put up with desantis spending tax money like water. the jaguar’s stadium being paid for by taxpayers, voting cops on the payroll and on and on. as a conservative, what about trumps trampling of law and order, and building a wall that mexico didn’t pay for and can climb over. and a state surgeon general that gets tenure and don’t show up for work but still gets paid. dems care about accountability and do more than just talk about it. i’m a progressive dem and i am the most financially conservative person i know. i don’t waste a penny, so my dollars pile up. i’m too tight to waste money on shopping, i do without unless i just can’t make it without something.the term conservative is a subjective term. i wouldn’t vote for a new york con man with a gold toilet.

  • Michael K

    December 11, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    These legislators strike me as pitiful, miserable people who cannot stand to see anyone else happy to be their full authentic selves. It’s all about state control – inflicting cruelty on fellow human beings.

    It’s so sad when legislators like Chamberlain and DeSantis tear others down to build themselves up. No sense of decency.

  • My Take

    December 11, 2023 at 8:00 pm

    The form of address “Comrade” solves much of it. “Citizen” in fascist states. ” Companero” I think in Cuba.

Comments are closed.


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