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DeSantis signs ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill- bans teaching anything LGBTQ+

DeSantis said teaching kindergarten-aged kids that “they can be whatever they want to be” was “inappropriate.”

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Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (Blade file screenshot/WFLA)

SPRING HILLS, Fl. – Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill Monday, which is sure to prompt lawsuits as opponents question the legality of legislation they see as harmful and discriminatory. 

At a press conference, DeSantis said teaching kindergarten-aged kids that “they can be whatever they want to be” was “inappropriate.”

“It’s not something that’s appropriate for any place, but especially not in Florida,” he said.

H.B. 1557, titled “Parental Rights in Education,” will make classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3, while “age-appropriate” teaching would be allowed in older grades – though it is not clear what is considered “age-appropriate.” The bill would also allow parents to sue schools or teachers who violate the legislation. 

When the measure cleared the Florida Legislature earlier this month, statewide LGBTQ+ rights organization Equality Florida promised it would “lead legal action against the State of Florida to challenge this bigoted legislation.”

“We will not sit by and allow the governor’s office to call us pedophiles,” the group said in a statement

DeSantis’ signature comes after nationwide pushback from top LGBTQ+ organizations, Democrats, LGBTQ+ youth, corporations and the White House. According to Equality Florida, over 600,000 people sent emails to lawmakers in opposition to the legislation. 

DeSantis also pushed back against critics of the legislation, saying: “I don’t care what Hollywood says. I don’t care what big corporations say. Here I stand. I am not backing down.”

While co-hosting Sunday’s Academy Awards in Los Angeles, openly gay Wanda Sykes addressed the bill, telling the audience that “for you people in Florida, we’re going to have a gay night.” Fellow hosts Amy Schumer and Regina Hall then repeated, “gay.” 

After being criticized for a muted response to the legislation, Walt Disney CEO Officer Bob Chapek apologized for the company’s response and clarified his opposition to the bill. 

Still, employees put on a “full stage” walkout last week at various corporate locations across the U.S. to protest what they see as a “lame” and “inadequate” stance taken by the company and Chapek.

LGBTQ+ youth across the state vehemently protested the bill, with thousands of students staging a walkout at the beginning of the month. 

“I pushed back on this, as I wasn’t going to allow staff to minimize our reach and message,” Jack Petocz, the lead organizer, said. “Using my megaphone, I told students to hold onto their flags and not to allow them to silence us.”

Some Republicans in the Florida Legislature also voiced concerns over the bill, prompting several to break from their party and vote against it.

“I am not going to support the bill today in hopes that we can find a way to love our neighbors,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, who was one of two Republican senators to vote against the legislation.

After the vote in the House, where seven Republicans casted a vote against the measure, Nadine Smith, executive director of statewide LGBTQ+ group Equality Florida, said: “This bill is so extreme that it inspired a rare rebellion within House GOP ranks.”
LGBTQ+ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide than those who did not, according to The Trevor Project.

This bill bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, effectively erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

“Governor Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the most cowardly way possible today. He hid his agenda from the media and the public until the last moment, skulking onto a charter school campus that is exempt from the law and away from students who would protest his presence,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. “He has attacked parents and children in our state by invoking hateful anti-LGBTQ stereotypes all to pander to his right-wing base as he prepares to run for President in 2024. DeSantis has damaged our state’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place for all families, he has made us a laughing stock and target of national derision. Worse, he has made schools less safe for children. Equality Florida will defend the rights of all students to have a healthy environment to learn and thrive and for all parents to know their families are included and respected. This law will not stand and we will work to see it removed either by the courts as unconstitutional or repealed by the legislature.”

“LGBTQ youth in Florida deserve better. They deserve to see their history, their families, and themselves reflected in the classroom,” said Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project. “While I am saddened to see this harmful bill signed into law, I am inspired by the outpouring of support for LGBTQ students we have seen from parents, teachers, celebrities, and their peers. Social support is vital for suicide prevention, and I want to remind LGBTQ youth in Florida and across the country that you are not alone.”

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Florida

19-year-old arrested for vandalizing Rainbow Crosswalk in his truck

Witnesses say they saw a vehicle doing multiple burnouts over the crosswalk at the intersection of NE 1st St. & NE 2nd Ave. in Delray Beach

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Mugshot of Dylan Brewer via Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Video capture of vandalism via Delray Beach Police Department.

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – A 19-year-old man from Clearwater has been charged after Delray Beach police say he intentionally did burnouts in his truck vandalizing the city’s LGBTQ Pride crosswalk.

Dylan Brewer was charged with felony criminal mischief over $1,000 and reckless driving.

Fox 13 Tampa reported that on the night of Sunday, Feb. 4, witnesses say they saw Brewer doing multiple burnouts with his vehicle over the LGBTQ pride crosswalk at the intersection of NE 1st Street and NE 2nd Avenue in Delray Beach. On Monday morning, Brewer turned himself in at the Delray Beach Police Department and was taken to the Palm Beach County Jail.

WPLG News 10 reported surveillance video released by the Delray Beach Police Department shows the driver of a pickup truck, with a large flag on the back, performing burnouts in the intersection, located at Northeast First Street and Second Avenue.

Delray Beach police said in a news release that the “reckless action caused significant damage to the streetscape painting, which serves as a symbol of unity and inclusivity for the LGBTQ community.”

The February 4 incident is the second time the crosswalk was vandalized since its installation in June of 2021, at a cost of $16,000, to commemorate Pride month in solidarity with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community according to Rand Hoch, the president of the Palm Beach Human Rights Council.

Alexander Jerrich who was 20-years-old at the time of his arrest, damaged the crosswalk mural while he was part of a truck caravan to celebrate former President Trump’s 75th birthday that year.

He was charged with criminal mischief, reckless driving, and evidence of prejudice with a felony enhancement. Later Jerrich was sentenced to two years of probation, community service, and mental health treatment.

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Fla. teens stage ‘die-in’ protesting anti-trans drivers license policy

Speaking with the Washington Blade on Friday afternoon, Cameron Driggers and Jack Petocz relayed how they led the demonstrations

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Cameron Driggers (back row, far left) and other demonstrators protest outside the Gainesville, Fla. Department of Motor Vehicles (Photo credit: Youth Action Fund)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – On Friday, just days after the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued a policy prohibiting transgender residents from updating the gender markers on their drivers licenses, a group of teens coordinated “die-in” protests at DMVs across the state.

Speaking with the Washington Blade on Friday afternoon, Cameron Driggers and Jack Petocz relayed how they led demonstrations in Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Gainesville that featured more than 200 participants including representatives from more than eight LGBTQ groups.

The 18 and 19-year-old college students serve as, respectively, executive director and deputy director of Youth Action Fund, “a collective of Gen-Z activists fighting against the far-right culture war raging throughout Florida.”

This latest front on the war against trans people in the state, Driggers said, represents “one of the scariest, most authoritarian developments in Florida in a long time.”

The state agency’s policy preempts legislation in the Florida House of Representatives that would implement the same restrictions, permitting Floridians to list only their sex assigned at birth on state-issued IDs.

In response, Driggers recognized that “we need to have an Act Up-style direct action where we put our bodies on the line,” a reference to the AIDS activist organization’s practice of staging “die-ins” to demand that the federal government and Reagan White House stop ignoring an epidemic that was ravaging gay communities in the 1980s.

Driggers said Friday’s demonstrations were each 37 minutes long, a nod to data from the U.S. Transgender Survey that 37 percent of respondents have experienced discrimination because their IDs have inaccurate gender markers.

“We really wanted the protests to tell a story,” Petocz said. “We had the individuals actually lying down and committing the die-in where they had mock gravestones with messaging like ‘RIP: Killed by the DMV’ or ‘killed by the DeSantis administration'” along with “general messages about trans resistance.”

At each site these demonstrators were joined by a narrator to “tell the story of why we are out there today to passersby, what we are fighting for in this moment, [and] what the DMV just committed.”

Asked whether their decision to emulate the protest methods of Act Up was grounded in the relationship between Florida’s anti-trans crusade and increased incidence of death by suicide in communities already beset with high suicide rates and mental health challenges, Petocz said yes — but added that it’s “multifaceted.”

“I also think that you have to look at it from the perspective of enabling hate — of enabling the kind of sentiment that contributes to widespread transphobia,” he said. “And when the state goes ahead and they amplify that sentiment and they actually endorse it, it definitely leaves way for additional hate and hate crimes.”

“Our trans brothers and sisters are most susceptible to hate crimes in this country,” Petocz added.

Driggers said that next up for the coalition that participated in Friday’s demonstrations is bringing their protest to the Florida House. He noted that the copycat legislation, which was filed by Rep. Douglas Michael Bankson, R-Apopka, and Rep. Dean Black, R-Jacksonville, is headed to committee for markup next week.

Meanwhile, they’re working with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida on a letter writing campaign to urge the Biden administration’s Justice Department to investigate the policy, which appears both unconstitutional and authoritarian, Driggers said. They have 1,167 letters so far.

Driggers also noted that Simone Chriss, director of the Southern Legal Counsel’s Transgender Rights Initiative, is “getting testimony from people who experienced problems” following the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ issuance of the new policy a couple of weeks ago.

A new wave of youth activism

Friday was hardly the first time Driggers and Petocz have led a protest against anti-LGBTQ and other harmful policies in Florida.

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“Jack and I obviously been involved in activism for a very long time,” Driggers said. Their organization, which was just founded in November, awards $500 and $1,000 stipends for youth-led campaigns and individual advocates — while also lending their expertise in organizing to others through advisory services.

“We’ve worked through a variety of more institutional established organizations,” Driggers said. “And through that we’ve kind of identified a lot of shortcomings in the nonprofit industrial complex, if you will.”

“First among those, we think that there’s a structural lack of resources, and we’re often put on a pedestal and [told] ‘you’re gonna save us,’ but really, all that really means is they want us to be free labor, they want to knock on doors, they want to, you know, co-opt labor for the benefit of other organizations,” he said.

By contrast, with the Youth Action Fund, Driggers said, he and his friends have pioneered a new organizing model where “we tell people to come to us with their ideas, and then we work with them to make those ideas happen.”

For instance, Driggers said, when they were approached by students from Brevard County public High schools who objected to the district’s practice of banning books, Youth Action Fund was able to provide resources for them to acquire “speaking equipment, tables, literature” along with guidance on matters like how to “negotiate with their school board on how to get permits to protest.”

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School district adds clothing to illustrations in children’s books

Pressed by Moms for Liberty, Indian River County Florida school district adds clothing to illustrations in classic children’s books

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Judd Legum & Tesnim Zekeria | VERO BEACH, Fla. – Since its initial publication in 1970, millions of children have read In The Night Kitchen, the classic picture book by celebrated author Maurice Sendak.

The book is about a young boy who has a surreal dream about baking a cake that needs to be finished by morning. It was named a Caldecott Honor Book, one of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature. 

At least two copies of In The Night Kitchen are available in elementary school libraries in Indian River County, Florida. This concerned Jennifer Pippin, the chair of the local Moms for Liberty chapter, because the main character, Mickey, is sometimes depicted without clothes.

In an interview, Pippin told Popular Information that she believes the book may be “harmful to minors.” She was worried that if a “5-year-old picks up this book and has never seen a picture of a penis… [t]he parent wouldn’t be able to discuss this with the child.” This is an example of one of the offending images:

Pippin submitted formal challenges to the Indian River County School District seeking the removal of In The Night Kitchen, which she calls “pornographic.” Pippin challenged other books with drawings of figures without clothes, including Unicorns Are The Worst, a book about a goblin complaining about how much people like unicorns. The concern about Unicorns Are The Worst is this picture of a goblin’s butt:

Following Pippin’s challenges, which occurred in November and December of 2023, the books were removed from the library shelves. 

Pippin told Popular Information that, after filing the challenges, she had a meeting with Indian River County Superintendent David Moore and other school officials concerning the books. At the meeting, one of the officials suggested the school district “draw clothes on them to cover the nudity.” Pippin said that she “would be absolutely fine with that” because she challenged the books “for nudity.” Now, in the copies of In The Night Kitchen in Indian River County schools, Mickey is wearing “little shorts.” 

Pippin provided Popular Information with a photo of the altered image from In The Night Kitchen. Popular Information obtained a photo of the altered image from Unicorns Are The Worst from a source at a Indian River County elementary school. These are the censored versions of the two images:

In other cases, the Indian River County librarians were more creative. Another book Pippin sought to remove was Draw Me A Star by Eric Carle, who is best known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Pippin was concerned about this image of “two adults that were naked.” She said that her concerns were addressed when the district librarians drew “board shorts on the man” and “put the girl in a bikini.” 

Also targeted was the book No, David! because it included this image.

Once these images were altered, the books were returned to the shelves in the second week of January 2024.

Pippin said she challenged these books, in part, because she believed the unaltered books violated two Florida statutes. The first is Florida’s obscenity law, which prohibits distributing to minors “any picture…which depicts nudity or sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sexual battery, bestiality, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors.” Pippin claims the law prohibits all nudity in school library books. But the law actually only prohibits nudity, which is also “harmful to minors.” The term “harmful to minors” has a specific legal meaning. It only applies to content that appeals primarily to “prurient, shameful, or morbid interests,” is “patently offensive,” and is without “serious literary [or] artistic…merit” for minors. It’s hard to argue In The Night Kitchen or the other books challenged by Pippin meet this standard. 

Pippin claims the unaltered version of In The Night Kitchen also violates a new law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis (R) in 2023, HB 1069. That law gives residents the right to demand the removal of any library book that “depicts or describes sexual conduct,” as defined under Florida law, whether or not the book is pornographic. In The Night Kitchen and the other books challenged by Pippin do not depict or describe sexual conduct. 

The alterations of the books in Indian River County were first flagged by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, which confirmed the school district’s actions through a public records request. 

David Flynt, the father of students in Indian River County schools, told Popular Information that he objected to Moms for Liberty’s efforts. Flynt questioned why Moms for Liberty was “sexualizing” an image “of a goblin’s bare backside.” The image “was not [included] to cause arousal, and was of a fictional character,” Flynt noted. He said that it was part of a pattern of censorship that was ultimately harmful to students. Flynt cited Pippin’s recent challenge of Sofia Valdez, Future Prez, the story of a young girl who seeks to improve her neighborhood. The basis of the challenge was that the main character’s grandfather is depicted wearing a pin in support of LGBTQ rights. This is the image that prompted the objection, with the pin circled in red:

That book has now been removed from the shelves of Indian River County schools pending review. In her challenge form, Pippin indicated that she had not read the book. 

Stephana Ferrell of the Florida Freedom to Read Project said that Moms for Liberty pushed the district to “deface an illustrator’s work to suit their sensibilities.” She said the group “regularly misrepresents the literary works of award-winning authors as pornography, and now silly, naked goblin butts.”

“[C]overing up an image, erasing a line, or pulling out a page is still suppression and robs the reader of the author’s full literary expressions,” Kasey Meehan, Program Director with the non-profit PEN America, said.

Pippin rejected these criticisms, saying that “covering up genitalia” was legally required and was not “defying the author’s work.”

Moms for Liberty’s other work in Indian River County

In August 2023, Indian River County’s Moms for Liberty succeeded in removing 35 books from school libraries after nearly 50 members read aloud explicit passages at a school board meeting. Many of these speakers were cut off by School Board Vice Chair Peggy Jones. In some cases, Jones requested that the speaker provide a content warning, citing concerns that there may be young children watching the meeting remotely with their parents. 

According to Pippin, this move was a deliberate attempt to circumvent the district’s book review policies. Previously, in 2022, only “five of the 156 books challenged by the Moms for Liberty chapter were removed by the School Board.” But, in July 2023, a new law went into effect that required books to be removed if a school board member stopped a parent from reading it aloud at a public meeting. As a result, the School Board unanimously voted to remove the books that Jones had interrupted while they were read aloud. Titles removed included Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

“It’s just the quickest, fastest way to get these books out of the hands of children,” Pippin told TC Palm. The review process, she said, was time-consuming.

Jones, however, said that she received death threats “every 10-15 minutes” after a clip of the board meeting went viral. She wasn’t alone: another School Board member was also receiving threats. Meanwhile, school district staff said they were flooded with “highly volatile and emotional emails” and calls following the meeting. In September 2023, the district announced that an additional 128 titles were removed for review. All of these books have been challenged by Moms for Liberty, TC Palm reports. Pippin has threatened to host “additional staged events if the books remained on the shelves.”

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The preceding article was previously published by Popular Info and is republished with permission.

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Florida DMV: “Misrepresenting” gender on drivers licenses is fraud

The policy appears to be the latest attempt at putting trans “eradication,” championed at CPAC, into action within the borders of Florida

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Florida Highway Patrol Trooper (Photo Credit: Florida Highway Patrol/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – According to a letter submitted by an anonymous source on Monday, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has rescinded the policy that allowed transgender individuals to update the gender marker on their driver’s licenses.

The letter, written by Deputy Executive Director Dave Kerner, states that gender will be interpreted as “biological sex.” Furthermore, the letter declares that any person “misrepresenting” their gender marker would be guilty of fraud, facing civil and criminal penalties, and revocation of licensure.

The letter, apparently sent out on Jan. 26, asserts that “gender” is synonymous with “biological sex,” and argues that gender identity is “neither immutable nor objectively verifiable.” It suggests that permitting transgender individuals to update their gender markers on their driver’s licenses would “prevent the state from enforcing its laws.” These laws include bans on transgender individuals using the bathroom of their gender identity and laws targeting adult medical care.

You can view the full copy of the letter here:

The move marks a significant escalation and seems to have been initiated unilaterally by the department. This action is in line with other unilateral measures taken by the executive branch in Florida and other states. These include the Florida Board of Medicine’s ban on transgender care, Governor Glenn Youngkin’s directive through the Board of Education to ban transgender bathroom usage in schools, and Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s efforts to target adult transgender care via the rule-making process. However, none of these examples previously involved driver’s licenses. If upheld, Florida would become the first state to prohibit driver’s license changes under criminal penalty for transgender individuals.

The ramifications of this rule could be far-reaching. All transgender individuals in the state with Florida driver’s licenses not aligning with their “biological sex” might immediately be in possession of a fraudulent license. The state could seek to suspend or revoke the licenses of transgender individuals under this policy. Moreover, during traffic stops involving transgender individuals, they could face legal challenges with police officers if the officers believe the driver’s license “misrepresents” their “biological sex.”

Representative Eskamani appeared to confirm that computer systems were no longer accepting gender changes at FLHSMV offices:

This development coincides with the consideration of two bills in Florida that aim to prohibit driver’s license changes through the legislative process: House Bills 1233 and 1639. These bills could require all Floridians to sign “biological sex affidavits” when renewing or updating their driver’s licenses. The policy could be a strategy to deter transgender Floridians, aware of the bills, from quickly updating the gender marker on their driver’s licenses before their passage. Notably, Florida driver’s licenses typically have long expiration periods, often lasting eight years post-issuance.

Under this policy, transgender individuals in Florida could face considerable challenges in daily life. Many have already left the state, and of those remaining, 80% reportedly wish to leave. This policy could instantly criminalize transgender individuals who drive in the state with updated gender markers. It would compel transgender people to disclose their identity in any situation requiring a driver’s license. Additionally, it would provide Florida a means to enforce its bathroom laws, which criminalize transgender individuals for using bathrooms that align with their gender identity in many public spaces.

Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida, issued the following statement:

“The DeSantis administration’s obsession with scapegoating transgender Floridians has escalated into an outrageous attack that further erodes freedom and liberty in our state. This cruel policy threatens transgender Floridians with civil and criminal penalties and blocks them from obtaining the critical government-issued identification necessary to continue their daily lives. Transgender people have always existed in every culture on every continent and always will. In Florida, tens of thousands of people have legally updated their gender marker on their driver’s license or ID. They carefully followed the rules to ensure their identification accurately reflects who they are, and they trusted this process. Now, an abrupt policy reversal has thrown their lives into chaos. The cruelty of this kind of government overreach and intrusion should alarm every Floridian. These reckless and hateful policies are intended to make the transgender community feel unsafe and unwelcome in Florida and to bully them out of public life entirely. 

We know this is a devastating development, and we are working with our coalition partners, our grassroots volunteers, and our legal groups to figure out what options are available to fight back.” 

The Human Rights Campaign reacted to this latest attack on the rights of trans Floridians in an emailed statement by Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson:

“For years, transgender people have warned of radical anti-LGBTQ+ forces’ true aim: to abuse governmental power to take away our freedoms and drive trans people out of public society,” said Robinson. “From AG Paxton hunting for private medical information of transgender children, to Florida’s assault on identification documents, to Midwest lawmakers saying the quiet part out loud, these right wing extremists are no longer hiding the ball. They want to humiliate, harass, and use policy to eliminate transgender people from public life. But you cannot legislate away the community. Transgender people are powerful. They are our friends, neighbors, and family members. And we will stand arm-in-arm with them to fight back against this sinister agenda.”

Florida currently occupies the most dangerous level on the Transgender Legislative Risk Assessment Map, “Do Not Travel.” The state’s oppressive laws have drawn similar travel advisories from the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida. Should this policy be enforced, the state’s transgender population will find it even harder to move freely and could come into conflict with law enforcement and criminal penalties just for having documents that match their gender identity. The policy appears to be the latest attempt at putting transgender “eradication,” championed at CPAC, into action within the borders of Florida.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Local Florida GOP party plans staging protest against “woke” flag

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Black Lives Matter, they’re also promoting LGBTQ to our students-schools need to stay the hell out of parenting”

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The Lee County Republicans flyer with the announcement to organize protest against a flag hanging in a Fort Myers, Florida classroom. (Screenshot/Lee County GOP Social Media)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A ‘Hate Has No Home Here’ flag hanging in a Riverdale High School classroom has angered the local Lee County Republican Party Chair Michael Thompson who tells local media outlets that the flag violates Florida’s Individual Freedom Act, commonly known as the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act also referred to as the Stop Woke Act.

The law was signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on April 22, 2022, and entered into effect July 1 the same year, although portions of the law have been blocked by a Federal District Court, which the state has filed an appeal to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite the suit and court challenge, the law remains enforceable in the state’s K-12 public schools.

Thompson and other members of the Lee County GOP plan on protesting the flag on Feb. 6, at the regular Lee County School District’s board meeting. “The issue at hand is that the district needs to get out of having any type of political influence on our children,” Thompson told the Fort Myers News-Press.

The school district and the teacher’s association are aware of the situation, with the latter working to ensure that the teacher’s rights are not violated the News-Press reported.

Thompson wants to see the flag in its entirety taken down as he believes it promotes Black Lives Matter, and transgender and LGBTQ+ issues.

“It’s being influenced upon that child, whether they’re talking about it from a textbook, or if it’s being blatantly just put right in front of their face,” Thompson said. “The Stop Woke Act was put into law to stop the indoctrination of our children.”

Advert for the flag as available at Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers

   

In a Facebook post announcing the planned protest, the Lee County GOP wrote:

The Lee County School District are continuing to indoctrinate our children in anti-American radical ideologies!

We are asking your voices to be heard at a peaceful assembly before the February 6th School Board Meeting. The protest will begin at 4:30 P.M. at the Lee County Public Education Center at 2855 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL.

The Lee County GOP is NOT condemning or attacking School Board members over these posters. We simply want to make them aware that this is happening in violation of the law and on the issues they campaigned on, so they can take the appropriate action to stop the woke indoctrination of our children.

Thompson told the News-Press: “The principal met with the teacher, and the teacher agreed to cover up the Black Lives Matter portion of it.”

However, the LGBTQ and transgender portions of the flag were not covered up.

Thompson said covering the Black Lives Matter portion wasn’t what he asked for and he wants the flag brought down in its entirety.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Black Lives Matter, they’re also promoting transgender and LGBT to our students,” Thompson said. “The school districts need to stay the hell out of parenting.”

Thompson said there may be a loophole in the act as the flag is not part of the school’s curriculum or activities.

“Now the school district has basically come back and pushed back on me and said, ‘Well, it’s okay because we’re not teaching it from curriculum,'” he said.

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Florida’s Board of Governors abolish DEI programs at universities

The Board noted that its decision “will ensure that taxpayer funds can no longer be used to promote DEI in universities”

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Students on the campus of the University of North Florida. a public research university in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo Credit: UNF, The Office of Media Relations)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Board of Governors in a voice vote passed rules Wednesday banning use of state or federal dollars for diversity programs or activities.

The board that oversees the state’s 12 public universities targeted any programs that promote “differential or preferential treatment of individuals, or classifies such individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

Another change the board signed off on prohibits tax money from being used to fund “political or social activism,” although student fees can pay for that.

The Board vice chair, Alan Levine, told media outlets: “It was said we were banning student organizations, and that’s not a fair statement.” 

In previous actions regarding DEI programs, on January 18, the Florida State Board of Education implemented strict regulations to limit the use of public funds for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, activities, and policies in the Florida College System (FCS).

In a statement the Board noted that its decision “will ensure that taxpayer funds can no longer be used to promote DEI on Florida’s 28 state college campuses.”

The rule adopted by the Board of Education defined, for the first time, DEI and affirmatively prohibits FCS institutions from using state or federal funds to administer programs that categorize individuals based on race or sex for the purpose of differential or preferential treatment.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida’s Senior Policy Advisor, issued the following statement reacting to the Board of Governors vote:

“It should be no surprise that today the Florida Board of Governors, a rubber stamp for Ron DeSantis’s agenda of censorship and surveillance, approved unprecedented rules that effectively abolish diversity and inclusion programs in our State University System intended to support LGBTQ and minority students. The Board’s rules go well beyond its authority granted by the legislature and instead impose broad censorship on a vast array of campus activities and speech and seriously threaten student and faculty participation in public life across the political, social, and religious spectrum. The shockingly broad and vague language will inevitably lead to self-censorship and a chilling effect that will end academic freedom as we know it on university campuses. 

The sweeping away of academic freedom combined with the elimination of sociology as a core course option, a reckless and unresearched decision made with little review of potential impacts, has diminished the prestige and reputation of Florida’s public universities. The Board of Governors had the opportunity to hit the brakes, but instead, shamefully followed their censorship agenda off a cliff in service to DeSantis’s failed political ambitions.”

The Board’s actions is aligning with a law signed last spring by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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CBS Miami reported DeSantis, who signed the DEI law before embarking on his suspended run for president, said last May that DEI programs promote a liberal “orthodoxy” on campus.

“This has basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda, and that is wrong,” the governor said.

On Thursday, the University of North Florida has announced the phase-out of all four diversity centers, including the LGBTQ+, Women’s, Interfaith, and Intercultural Centers due to new regulations on Prohibited Expenditures focusing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion approved by the Florida Board of Governors.

UNF President Dr. Moex Limayem released a statement that said:

“Dear Osprey Community,

I am writing this evening to share with you that Regulation 9.016 on Prohibited Expenditures was approved by the Florida Board of Governors today.

The regulation relates to the new state law passed during last year’s legislative session (Senate Bill 266), prohibiting expenditures for programs and activities at state universities and colleges that advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion or that promote or engage in political or social activism.

As stated in previous messages, state universities have been awaiting this regulation from the BOG that provides key definitions and guidance on implementation.

In accordance with the new law and the approval of this regulation, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and its centers (the Intercultural Center, Interfaith Center, LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center) will now begin to be phased out. No staff members will lose their employment at UNF as a result of the closures of these centers.

We are working with affected employees to establish new work assignments within the University at their current salary or above. Student clubs making up the Student Alliance for Inclusion and Diversity will remain active registered student organizations at UNF. We recognize there will be other questions that may arise related to the new law, and we will continue to keep you updated.

Please know that as we implement these new changes, the University remains committed to ensuring that every member of our campus community is cared for and has the resources needed to be successful. Programs and a list of resources are offered through the Dean of Students’ Care Services.

Also, the Counseling Center and Victim Advocacy Program are among other services available to students, while our Employee Assistance Program is available for faculty and staff. As always, the University community is encouraged to contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Inclusion at [email protected] with any concerns regarding discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Accountability. Integrity. Excellence. Civility and Culture of Care. These are UNF’s values and included in our Strategic Plan that was also approved by the BOG today.

The plan reflects our priorities as a University and will guide our direction as we seek to become a destination of choice for students, faculty and staff. The values included in the plan bind us together and reflect how we treat one another. We want UNF to be a place where all people feel safe and welcome, and where there is no place for hate.

This semester, we will begin seeking ways to reinforce UNF’s values in everything we do, and we will review and expand resources as necessary to ensure success for all members of our campus community.

As we work to improve the UNF experience for all students, faculty and staff, we will seek your input. Together, we will shape an even stronger future for UNF.”

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Florida

Florida bans all DEI programs at state colleges & universities

The rule prohibits FCS institutions from using state or federal funds to administer programs that categorize individuals based on race or sex

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Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. (Screenshot/YouTube WFLA NBC News 8)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On Wednesday the Florida State Board of Education implemented strict regulations to limit the use of public funds for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, activities, and policies in the Florida College System (FCS).

The rule adopted by the Board defined, for the first time, DEI and affirmatively prohibits FCS institutions from using state or federal funds to administer programs that categorize individuals based on race or sex for the purpose of differential or preferential treatment.

In a statement the Board noted that its decision “will ensure that taxpayer funds can no longer be used to promote DEI on Florida’s 28 state college campuses.”

“The State Board of Education also replaced the course “Principles of Sociology” with a comprehensive general education core course in American History. The aim is to provide students with an accurate and factual account of the nation’s past, rather than exposing them to radical woke ideologies, which had become commonplace in the now replaced course,” the statement continued.

“Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers’ money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society.”

Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director for Equality Florida responded:

“There’s no surprise today that the State Board of Education, a board that has been a rubber stamp for Governor Ron DeSantis’s agenda of censorship and surveillance, moved forward with another sweepingly broad rule that abolishes diversity and inclusion programs in the Florida College System,” Saunders said.

“The Board’s rules go well beyond what’s required by Governor DeSantis’s already extreme SB 266, handcuffing state colleges from using any state-funded resources on diversity programs that help recruit talented faculty, support students with unique needs, and help Florida’s colleges compete for national research and funding. This is a brazenly political attack on Florida’s colleges, and all minorities in Florida, and is one more way state agencies have been weaponized to support Governor DeSantis’s failing political ambitions. Shame on the State Board of Education for passing rules that weaken and threaten Florida’s colleges in service to one more manufactured culture war,” Saunders added.

The Human Rights Campaign reacted to the news noting:

“The State Board of Education’s rule is the latest in right wing attacks on programs that make college campuses inclusive, welcoming, and ensure all students and faculty have the chance to thrive. In his quest for power, Governor DeSantis has weaponized state agencies, wielding them against the people they are there to serve, and used education as his political punching bag. This is a shameful assault on Florida’s college students and staff of all backgrounds,” Brandon Wolf, National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, said in an emailed statement.

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Florida

LGBTQ lawmakers, advocates vow to resist repressive legislation

Several hundred LGBTQ-rights advocates gathered in the Florida Capitol Tuesday to denounce fresh attacks on their rights

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Supporters for LGBTQ+ Rights gather at the Florida Capitol building on January16, 2024. (Photo Credit: Equality Florida)

By Michael Moline | TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Several hundred LGBTQ-rights advocates gathered in the Florida Capitol Tuesday to denounce fresh attacks on their rights and urge passage of legislation that would repeal existing restrictions on their rights.

Legislative Democrats joined the crowd on Tuesday, including out gay Sen. Shevrin Jones, of Miami-Dade County and House member Michele Rayner, representing parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough, along with representatives of Equality Florida, which organized the affair. The crowd was good-naturedly rowdy despite the threat they saw to their wellbeing.

 Angelique Godwin of Equality Florida addresses a news conference at the Florida Capitol on Jan. 16, 2024. Credit: Michael Moline

“I will not be scared out of the state. You will not make laws to remove me or my dreams. I was raised on an America that believed that freedom will ring,” said Angelique Godwin, coordinator for trans-related events at Equality Florida.

“We are not pawns in a political game; we are people with the right to dignity, equality, and a life free from constant slander and discrimination,” Godwin added later in a written statement.

The speakers referred to HB 599 and SB 1382, which would bar state and local governments and contractors or nonprofits drawing state money from recognizing employees’ preferred gender pronouns if they differ from their biological sex.

Additionally, employers could act against employees or contractors based on the “deeply held religious or biology-based beliefs, including a belief in traditional or Biblical views of sexuality and marriage, or the employee’s or contractor’s disagreement with gender ideology.”

Equality Florida senior political director Joe Saunders, a former state House member, called it the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans at Work” bill.

‘Trans erasure’

HB 1233 and SB 1639 would require the state to treat people according to their biological sex instead of their gender identity, including on their drivers’ licenses. Any health insurer that pays for gender reassignment treatments would have to cover “detransitioning” treatments, intended to reverse the process. Additionally, insurers would have to offer policies lacking transition care and to cover treatment of gender dysphoria as a mental rather than physical health problem.

“[D]istinctions between the sexes with respect to athletics, prisons or other detention facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, locker rooms, restrooms, and other areas where biology, safety, or privacy are implicated which result in separate accommodations are substantially related to the important state interest of protecting the health, safety, and privacy of individuals in such circumstances,” the measure says.

Also, the state and its subdivisions would have to count transgender people for statistical purposes according to their biological sex.

Saunders referred to that one as the “trans erasure” bill.

“These bills are fuel for a sinister belief that transgender people don’t exist and that government should be weaponized to exclude them from public life,” he said.

By contrast, LGBTQ-friendly legislators are pressing the Health Care Freedom Act (SB 1404) essentially repealing Florida’s and trans care restrictions) and the Freedom to Learn Act (SB 1414) repealing restrictions on classroom instruction about race, color, national origin, or sex and forbidding schools from requiring employees to notify parents of student’s LGBTQ status “if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in harm to the student.”

“We are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives,” Saunders said.

Joe Saunders of Equality Florida addresses a news conference at the Florida Capitol on Jan. 16, 2024. Flanking him, l-r, are Senate members Shevrin Jones and Tracie Davis.
(Photo Credit: Michael Moline)

‘Read the numbers’

Participants mocked Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second-place showing in the Iowa Republican caucus, with former President Donald Trump leading 51.1% of the vote, nearly 30 percentage points ahead of DeSantis.

“Read the numbers from yesterday,” Jones, of Miami-Dade County, told the governor. “Your policies don’t work; America don’t like them and Florida don’t like them, either.”

“Banning books does not ban LGBTQ youth or adults and it will not eliminate them. Restricting access to Black, queer, and other diverse media does nothing, nothing, to actually protect our children. It actually harms them. A child should not have to feel fear from their parents because of who they are,” said Duval County Democratic Sen. Tracie Davis.

 Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith, Jan. 16, 2024. Credit: Michael Moline

Republicans are scapegoating LGBTQ people and other minorities to distract from their inability to solve problems including high insurance and housing costs, Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith said.

Smith compared the climate now to the 1970s, when Anita Bryant led her anti-LGBTQ campaign, and earlier, when the legislative Johns Committee rooted out reds and LGBTQ people from the public universities. Then as now, LGBTQ advocates were seen as “grooming” children for sexual abuse.

Smith urged moderate Republicans to see the light. “History will remember what you do this session,” she said.

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Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Florida Phoenix and is republished with permission.

The Phoenix is a nonprofit news site that’s free of advertising and free to readers. We cover state government and politics with a staff of five journalists located at the Florida Press Center in downtown Tallahassee.

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Florida

Moms for Liberty co-founder told to step down- for nearly 3 hours

Last month the Sarasota Schools Board passed a formal resolution asking Bridget Ziegler to step down which she has refused to do so

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Dozens call for disgraced Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler to step down in a tense 3 hour long public comment session. (Screenshot/YouTube WFLA NBC 8)

SARASOTA, Fla. – The public comment period of Tuesday’s Sarasota County School Board meeting focused on Moms for Liberty co-founder and Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler to step down as public outrage over the disgraced conservative politico’s sex scandal grows.

For nearly three hours dozens of speakers eviscerated Ziegler’s refusal to step down. The Daily Beast reported John Smeallie, a retired deputy superintendent of Maryland schools, told Ziegler: “If this is your approach to education, then you are unfit to serve on any board.” Smeallie then called Ziegler “a hypocrite of the worst order.” “Despite your attacks on the LGTBQ-plus community, it would appear that you are a part of it. Certainly a B, maybe a plus,” Smeallie said to laughter from the audience.

The Ziegler sex scandal continues to draw headlines even after Bridget Ziegler’s husband Christian Ziegler was forcibly ousted by the Florida Republican Party as its Chairman over the allegations of rape, and video voyeurism currently being investigated by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

The Daily Beast noted that in late November, nonprofit journalism outlet the Florida Trident revealed Sarasota cops were investigating Ziegler for allegedly raping a female friend who’d previously had a threesome with him and his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler.

Since then, the Zieglers have defied vociferous calls to step down from their positions. Bridget Ziegler sits on the Sarasota County school board and on Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ Disney oversight board, created to punish the company for opposing his “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.

Last month the Sarasota Schools Board passed a formal resolution asking Bridget Ziegler to step down which she has refused to do so. Under Florida law, only Governor DeSantis has the power to suspend her for alleged violations such as malfeasance or neglect of duty. If he did, the state Senate would then vote on ousting Ziegler, whose replacement would be appointed by the governor, the Daily Beast also reported.

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Florida

Florida legislation: Accusations of Transphobia could be defamation

Accusations of Transphobia would be defamation. A defendant could not “prove truth” by citing a plaintiff’s “scientific or religious beliefs”

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Florida state Senator Jason Brodeur (R-10 Orange) (Photo Credit: Office of Sen. Jason Brodeur/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – A new bill introduced in Florida, Senate Bill 1780, would make accusations of discrimination towards transgender people “defamation per se,” with accusers on the hook for a hefty $35,000 penalty.

Critically, the bill states that if you are sued for defamation under the statutes, you cannot use the defendant’s scientific or religious beliefs or expression to prove that they are acting in a discriminatory fashion towards transgender people. These and other provisions would make it so that accusations of transphobic discrimination would be nearly impossible to prove, and would leave anyone making the accusation on the hook for damages.

The bill outlines several methods and protections for individuals accused of transphobic actions to sue their accusers. For example, one clause stipulates that a person cannot be deemed a public figure due to their association with “a video, image, or statement uploaded on the internet that has reached a large audience.”

This implies that if someone is captured on video engaging in discriminatory behavior against transgender individuals, such as denying entry or using slurs, this viral content cannot establish their status as a “public figure.” Consequently, this makes it easier for them to initiate lawsuits against those who accuse them of transphobia, regardless of what the video shows.

Most importantly, the bill contains a section that would make allegations that someone is operating in a discriminatory fashion towards “race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity” defamation per se, meaning accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia could result in hefty lawsuits.

For homophobia and transphobia, there is an additional provision that would make lawsuits much more likely to succeed: defendants could not cite a plaintiff’s “constitutionally protected religious expression or beliefs” or a plaintiff’s “scientific beliefs” to prove the truth of their allegation of homophobia or transphobia.

See the section here:

This would eviscerate the ability of any person to defend themselves against a defamation suit under this law. A person could not call, for instance, a fiercely anti-gay or anti-trans pastor transphobic.

The pastor would be able to sue their accusers for $35,000 and their accusers could not use the pastor’s “religious expression or beliefs” to prove that the pastor is transphobic or homophobic. Similarly, if a shopkeeper kicks a transgender person out of a shop while citing “God’s word” or their “scientific beliefs” and the video goes viral, the shopkeeper could claim that they were acting under their “constitutionally protected religious expression or beliefs” or their “scientific beliefs.” It would bar anyone from calling that shopkeeper transphobic.

The bill would tremendously chill speech in Florida. The bill applies to print, television, and even online posts, meaning that even posting on social media that someone is transphobic or homophobic could land one in trouble. It also removes privileges for journalists and would not allow a journalist to use an anonymous source in reporting on transphobia, homophobia, racism, and sexism.

The bill was brought forward by Florida Senator Jason Brodeur, who famously released another bill targeting freedom of speech in 2023, dubbed “the blogger bill.” That bill would have made it so that all bloggers must register with the state or be barred from publicizing criticism about politicians in the state. Senator Brodeur has previously claimed that he is in favor of “protecting free speech” when speaking about “campus indoctrination.”

The bill appears to mirror a separate bill brought in 2023, which passed the Civil Justice subcommittee but died in the Judiciary Committee.

The new bill is essentially unchanged and represents a second attempt to get the law through. Given Florida’s history of escalating anti-LGBTQ+ laws, such as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” expansion in the state, it bears close watching for potential passage this year.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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