OPINION: Florida can’t outlaw the LGBTQ community

DeSantis’ laws against the LGBT community are not only harmful, but incredibly out of touch given how widespread gay and trans citizens have become in recent years. ORACLE PHOTO / JUSTIN SEECHARAN

On May 17, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed multiple bills that are openly discriminatory toward the LGBTQ community.

These bills ban the use of pronouns in schools that differ from an individual’s gender at birth, allow trans people to only use bathrooms that correspond with their birth-gender and much more. These are just the latest attempts from the governor to drive members of the LGBTQ community out of the state. 

The LGBTQ community and culture are ingrained in the state of Florida, and DeSantis needs to stop making them the target of these new laws in an attempt to run them off.

These new laws have sparked some fear amongst members of this community. Advocacy groups such as Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign have issued travel advisories for the state.

“Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose significant risk to the health and safety of many considering relocation and/or temporary travel to the state,” said Equality Florida in the May 23 advisory.

Lerren Bradley-Tyler, officer of the Queer and Trans People of Color Collective club at USF, is also concerned about the legislation.

“I currently proudly hang my pride flags, photos of me with my wife and exist out loud. I fear for the day when I can no longer do so without fear of retaliation,” said Bradley-Tyler in a May 27 interview with The Oracle.

Despite DeSantis’ efforts, the LGBTQ community is still alive and well in Florida.

From a logistical point of view, not all LGBTQ-citizens can move out of Florida. In 2021, 17% of LGBTQ residents in the U.S. were suffering from poverty, according to a February 2023 report from Williams Institute. While this represents a 6% drop from 2020, it shows that there are plenty of gay, bi, trans and non-binary citizens who simply cannot afford to move away from this toxic environment DeSantis is creating.

Still, Florida has an LGBTQ population of 886,000, according to a 2020 study by the Williams Institute.

The 2022 St. Pete Pride event attracted an estimated 260,000 attendees, according to a 2022 report from The Tampa Bay Times. This shows that even in hard times, there is still widespread love and support for the community to construct these massive celebrations.

There are also several lawsuits that are currently underway to argue against many of DeSantis’ policies. Hamburger Mary’s, a restaurant that has hosted “‘family friendly’” drag shows on Sundays ever since 2008, has decided to sue DeSantis and the state of Florida after they lost 20% of their bookings following his laws banning children from entering a venue with “adult live performances,” according to a May 22 article from the Orlando Sentinel.

With Pride Month coming up, there are also celebrations planned in areas like Orlando or Lake County that show members of the community aren’t afraid to be their true selves, according to a May 25 article from the Orlando Sentinel.

While DeSantis claims these bills are to protect children, members of the LGBTQ community say that they feel their community is being targeted specifically, according to an April 24 article by the Tampa Bay Times. Many also point out the hypocrisy because these new laws also target transgender children, meaning that the stated purposes behind these bills only protects straight children, while endangering gay and trans children.

The bills are also flawed economically, as pride events typically require lots of funding and make a lot of money from attendees. The Tampa Pride on the River event was canceled due to the same “anti-drag bill” that is impacting Hamburger Mary’s. The move will cost the organization $100,000, according to a May 18 article from WFLA.

DeSantis will not be able to drive such a strong community away with these laws. LGBTQ citizens have been fighting for their rights for a majority of their lives, and all these bills are going to do is result in further protests towards the governor, while simultaneously restricting the rights of many individuals. It’s past time he realizes this and stops passing these destructive laws.