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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

CDC: Meningococcal Disease outbreak investigation in Florida, 7 deaths

Gay & bisexual men urged to get vaccinated if living in Florida, or talk to their healthcare provider about vaccination if traveling to state

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CDC Headquarters, Atlanta (Photo Credit: U.S. Government/GSA)

ATLANTA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Thursday that the agency is continuing its collaboration with the Florida Department of Health to investigate one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history.

At least 24 cases and 7 deaths among gay and bisexual men have been reported so far a CDC spokesperson noted.

In response to this outbreak, CDC is recommending gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men get a meningococcal vaccine if they live in Florida, or talk with their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated if they are traveling to Florida. CDC is also emphasizing the importance of routine vaccination for people with HIV.  

“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” said José R. Romero, M.D., Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Because of the outbreak in Florida, and the number of Pride events being held across the state in coming weeks, it’s important that gay and bisexual men who live in Florida get vaccinated, and those traveling to Florida talk to their healthcare provider about getting a MenACWY vaccine.” 

People can find a meningococcal vaccine by contacting their doctor’s office, pharmacy, community health center, or local health department. Insurance providers should pay for meningococcal vaccination for those whom it is recommended for during an outbreak. In Florida, anyone can get a MenACWY vaccine at no cost at any county health department during the outbreak.  

Seek medical attention right away if you have symptoms of meningococcal disease. Symptoms can appear suddenly and include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea/vomiting, or a dark purple rash. Symptoms can first appear as a flu-like illness, but typically worsen very quickly. People spread meningococcal bacteria to others by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact, such as kissing or being near someone coughing, to spread these bacteria.   

Meningococcal disease can affect anyone and can be deadly and includes infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream. Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best protection against meningococcal disease. 

More information about the outbreak and vaccine is available at Meningococcal Disease in Florida, 2022 | CDC.  

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Florida

Florida proposes eliminating Medicaid coverage for gender affirming care

Should Florida’s Health Care Administration enact the rule, approximately 9,000 trans Floridians insured with Medicaid could be impacted

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Screenshot/WCJB ABC 20 Gainesville

TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) released its Notice for a Proposed Rule to eliminate Medicaid coverage for gender affirming care for transgender Floridians.

AHCA’s rule proposes that Florida Medicaid coverage “does not cover the following services for the treatment of gender dysphoria: puberty blockers, hormones, sex reassignment surgeries, and any other procedures that alter primary or secondary sexual characteristics.” 

If enacted, approximately 9,000 transgender Floridians insured with Medicaid could be impacted.

 “Access to healthcare is a right every human being deserves,” said Equality Florida Director of Transgender Equality Nikole Parker. “Transgender individuals are humans just like everyone else. Just because our experience isn’t widely understood, does not mean we don’t deserve respect and access to life-saving healthcare.  The country’s major medical and mental health associations recognize the critical importance of gender affirming care.  Health care should be driven by scientific consensus, not political pandering or an election cycle.” 

Public comment on the proposed rule is being accepted through July 8, 2022, and can be submitted at the “make comment” link on this page.

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Florida

Anti-LGBTQ laws making Florida less welcoming for businesses

The state LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index is issued annually to help business leaders make equitable decisions about where to operate

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OUT Leadership/Facebook

TALLAHASSEE – In a new report by OUT Leadership, the global network for LGBTQ+ business leaders and companies, the state of Florida’s ranking has decreased at a higher rate than most states making it less suitable for companies who value LGTBQ+ inclusion in the workplace.

The report is called the State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index for 2022 and is issued annually to help business leaders make equitable decisions about where to operate.

“At a time when our state is recovering from the pandemic and unprecedented employment challenges, this report shows that the current decisions from the state’s leadership about prioritizing culture wars over cultural diversity is harming our reputation as a welcoming and inclusive state to LGBTQ talent, and with companies who truly value equality for their workplace cultures,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director.

“Our coalition called Equality Means Business was developed to highlight companies in our state that walk the walk when it comes to LGBTQ protections in their places of business,” said Rene Cantu, Equality Florida Business Outreach Manager. “It would be a shame if our corporate partners and their team members start considering moving out of Florida because of the current climate, but there are some who are doing so.”

The report measures such factors as legal/nondiscrimination protections, youth and family support, political and religious attitudes, health access and safety, and workplace culture through the lens of the LGBTQ+ community in each state.

According to this report, Florida’s score for 2022 is 53.43, a drop of 3.40 points from 2021. This score also lies 11 points below the national average of 64.61, and places Florida at a ranking of 31 out of 50. The report further states that the dramatic drop in score is a direct result of the anti-LGBTQ legislation being passed, including the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Though the law does not take effect until July 1, its chilling effects are already being felt across the state. Graduation speeches and yearbook photos have faced censorship in the law’s wake while books with LGBTQ characters and Black authors are being challenged and banned, COEXIST flags and rainbow “Safe Space” stickers are being peeled from classroom windows, and teachers are considering leaving the profession for fear of the law’s implications. 

“The message is clear: LGBTQ kids and kids with same-sex parents are not welcome in Florida schools or our state. That reality is making it harder for pro-equality businesses to operate in the state,” Equality Florida noted in a press release Thursday.

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