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DeSantis’ latest attacks against the LGBT community and why all workers must reject them

Photo: April 25 Drag Queen’s March inside the Florida Capitol in Tallahasse. Credit: Dave Decker, with permission.

From the expansion of the “Don’t Say Gay” law to cracking down on drag shows, Ron DeSantis and the far-right Florida Legislature have wasted no time in intensifying their assaults against the LGBTQ community, chiefly trans people.

The actions of the Florida government detailed below should be rejected by all working-class people and must be understood clearly for what they are: a desperate attempt to distract and divide us to maintain a system that is dependent on the domination of a tiny minority over the large majority. 

Attacks on trans health care, support and expression

This week DeSantis signed SB 254, which makes it a third degree felony for health care providers who give any type of gender-affirming care to trans minors. It also grants Florida courts temporary emergency jurisdiction over a child who receives any type of gender-affirming care and it categorizes gender-affirming care as “serious harm” to children. In other words, parents who support their trans children can temporarily lose custody. 

In more attempts to erase trans people from schools and all of society, HB 1521 was recently signed into law, which requires people in schools, private businesses, public shelters, health care facilities, and jails to use bathrooms associated with their sex assigned at birth. Drag shows are under attack as well because of a new law signed that would give the state the power to take away licenses from establishments if they allow children into “adult live performances.” 

‘Don’t Say Gay’ expansion

In addition, the infamous Don’t Say Gay law has been expanded.

Originally passed in 2022, the infamous Parental Rights in Education Law, better known as the Don’t Say Gay law, is essentially a ban on any discussion about the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ history or any LGBTQ representation at all in education. Until last month, it was applied to kindergarten up to third grade. It has since been expanded to all grade levels. 

It also prohibits schools from adopting procedures on student support forms that maintain the confidentiality of a disclosure by a student, including the gender identity or sexual orientation of a student from parents. 

The expansion bans school staff from asking students their pronouns or using their preferred pronouns if they are trans.

Attacks on free speech

It also allows residents of a school district, whether or not they have children in the district, to demand the removal of any book they disagree with. 

This law and its expansion is already having an impact. Along with the Stop WOKE Act, which seeks to ban discussions about Black history in Florida public schools, this bigoted legislation has resulted so far in over 175 Black, queer, and Latino books being pulled from the shelves. 

Jenna Barbee, a fifth grade teacher in Hernando County, is currently under investigation by the Department of Education for showing the Disney movie “Strange World” in her classroom which features an openly gay character. 

Republican lawmakers and billionaire-funded organizations like Moms for Liberty have continued to push the anti-LGBTQ conspiracy that people who teach children about sexual diversity or anything about the LGBTQ community are engaging in a form of grooming. 

This is far from the first time this trope has been used as a tool of state repression. The Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, which originally was formed in 1956 to go after and repress communists and civil rights groups like the NAACP, eventually went after LGBTQ students, teachers and professors under the pretext that queer people “preyed on children.” 

Unite and fight to defeat anti-LGBTQ attacks and other attacks on the working class

Recent legislation passed in the name of protecting children is defining parental support of gender-affirming care as abuse, and seeks to limit parental rights. Instead of offering protection, this will increase the vulnerability of LGBTQ and trans children. But this was never about protecting children. There is no mention of parental rights to food, housing, health care, or quality education to support their families. As the cost of living rises rapidly due to inflation, conditions are getting much worse for working families.

All of these attacks on the LGBTQ community need to be understood in the context of the attack on all workers.

During this legislative session Floridians also saw an attack on tenant protections, a ban on rent control, a huge public sector union-busting bill, attacks on immigrants, attacks on women and reproductive rights and an attempt to fully privatize education. All working-class people have a stake in this fight.

These issues are not separate. These attacks are meant to weaken worker power economically and socially by making villains out of certain groups like trans people. All the attacks are pushed by a small group of corporate donors. What is needed right now is working-class unity and organization. Now is the time to get involved and join the fight. We make up the majority, and our collective potential is what the ruling elite fears the most. History has shown that when we organize and fight together, we win!

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