TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The second week of Florida’s legislative session was nothing short but eventful, as hundreds of LGBTQ activists descended upon the Capitol to protest what they referred to as “anti-trans” legislation. The bill that was met with contention on Tuesday was HB 1223, which Rep. Anderson explained is designed to protect parental rights.
Rep. Anderson began by explaining that HB 1223 reinforces parental rights in two key areas: “First, it prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in the classrooms of kids in Pre-K through 8th grade. Secondly, it protects school employees, contractors, and students from being forced to use pronouns that do not correspond to an individual’s biological sex when addressing someone,” he stated.
“IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH”
Rep. Anderson was immediately met with opposition from Rep. Angela “Angie” Dixon (D-Jacksonville), who expressed concern about the legislation’s potential impact on mental health and suicide rates among transgender-identifying students. She pressed Rep. Anderson on the purpose of the bill and asked if he could provide his colleagues with specifics as to how many schools pronoun usage has been an issue in.
“There have been complaints of issues in at least 12 Florida school districts throughout the state,” Rep. Anderson replied.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS SPOKE OUT
Religious leaders weren’t excluded from the debate. A pastor from Equality Florida testified: “If my children discover that their identity differs from what it is now, it is my right as a parent to give them that freedom and respect… we need to recognize that we’re all different.”
In the midst of outcries against the bill, David Leatherwood from Gays Against Groomers stood up in support of it. “This bil is not anti-LGBT, it’s pro-child safety…This isn’t a partisan issue – it’s just common sense!” he yelled.
Leatherwood was quickly shut down by opponents who cried: “What about the LGBTQ community threatens you?” and “I would rather have trans people move next to me than Nazis! You all are fascists!”
The highly emotional testimony was concluded by statements given by Rep. Susan L. Valdes (D-Tampa) and Rep. Nixon. “For all of you that came out today, thank you for being here and expressing yourselves. To the students that spoke – you are loved and just know that you are recognized,” Rep. Valdes said.
“IT’S ABOUT POWER AND CONTROL”
Rep. Nixon followed by expressing her utmost opposition to the bill: “This bill is anti-freedom. It’s anti-liberty. It’s not about parental rights. It’s not about kids’ rights. It’s about scoring political points. It’s about power and control,” she said.
Rep. Fabian Basabe (R-Miami-Dade), who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, threw his support behind the bill and explained that he believes there is a lot of misinformation surrounding it. “My understanding is that this bill is not prohibiting speech,” he stated.
Despite the four-hour long contentious debate in the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee, HB 1223 passed along party lines and is now heading to the Education & Employment committee.