In what can only be described as the next step in Florida’s crusade to completely erase and demolish the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals, Governor Ron DeSantis has officially signed the ‘Protections of Medical Conscience’ bill.
On Thursday 11 May 2023, DeSantis, who has single-handedly helped to crush the legal and medical protections of queer US citizens, pushed forward a piece of legislation which enables medical professionals and for-profit insurers to deny patients care based on religious, moral or ethical reasons or beliefs.
2023 has already become one of the most insidious years in regards to the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, and this recent bill will only further endanger them. As reported by PinkNews, legitimate concerns have been raised by activists and other medical professionals across the US that Senate Bill 1580 could be used to deny care to queer people, if a healthcare provider holds bigoted views about the community.
According to DeSantis however, the passing of this bill will ensure “medical freedom of speech for physicians by allowing doctors to follow data, not political agendas.” The so-called politician went on to state: “Florida rejects penalising physicians who dissent from the official narrative.”
One Twitter user, who has been publically referring to the bill as the ‘Let Them Die Act’ stated that the legislation was already having a major impact. Alejandra Caraballo alleged that one trans person had died after EMTs refused to treat them after a car accident.
Not only is the bill itself incredibly pointed and seeped with homophobic undertones, it’s also incredibly vague. The idea of a ‘conscience-based objection’ is highly complex and, as so many conservative political footballs are these days, it can and most likely will be used specifically to refuse the medical treatment of trans individuals—a community that has faced ruthless discrimination in the South and across the entire country over the past decade.
The situation has escalated to such a point that human rights group Equality Florida has begun issuing travel advice to any LGBTQIA+ individuals planning on going to the Southern state.
Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, stated that as an organisation which works to improve Florida’s reputation for LGBTQIA+ equality, that it was with “great sadness” that they had to issue the travel advisory.
Some of the other scathing bills recently passed in Florida include: the highly controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which restricts educators from teaching students about sexual orientation and gender issues, with teachers opening themselves up to lawsuits should they fail to comply and the ‘Safety in Private Spaces’ act which would make it a misdemeanour trespassing offence for someone to use certain bathrooms that don’t align with their sex at birth. There have also been a number of anti-drag bills passed in the South.
While activism targeted towards revoking and fighting against this swathe of legislation remains strong, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break away from DeSantis’ own “official narrative” which is, of course, that the LGBTQIA+ community must be eviscerated. What’s even more concerning is that it looks more likely every single day that the Florida Governor might be the winning Republican candidate for the 2024 Presidential elections…
Three high school students are planning on suing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis following his administration’s controversial decision to reject a new Advanced Placement course (AP) covering African American studies. The news came only one day after the College Board announced it would revise the course—a stark contrast to the December 2020 law that made Connecticut the first state in the country to require high schools to offer black and Hispanic studies courses.
Although it’s unclear what tweaks will ultimately be made, DeSantis, who said the original coursework “pushed an agenda,” was quick to claim victory. The white politician once described critical race theory as “teaching kids to hate their country,” mirroring a similar push seen by conservative officials across the US.
“By rejecting the African American history pilot programme, Ron DeSantis has clearly demonstrated that he wants to dictate whose history does—and doesn’t—belong,” Democratic state Representative Fentrice Driskell stated at a news conference in Tallahassee, announcing the lawsuit, on Wednesday 25 January 2023.
If DeSantis does not allow the course to be taught in the state, high-profile civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who has previously represented the families of George Floyd and Trayvon Martin, warned that he will be the one filing the lawsuit on behalf of the three lead plaintiffs. That same Wednesday, Crump led a rally inside the Florida Capitol alongside black Democratic state lawmakers to underscore what they say is Florida attempting to whitewash history.
“If the Governor allows the College Board to present AP African American studies in classrooms across the state of Florida, then we will feel no need to file this historic lawsuit,” the attorney told reporters at the Capitol. “However, if he rejects the free flow of ideas and suppresses African American studies, then we’re prepared to take this controversy all the way to the United States Supreme Court.”
While dozens of other states are also currently introducing legislation aiming to limit the teaching of various topics, such as race and American history, in public schools, it should be noted that these bills seem particularly successful in Florida.
It was DeSantis who signed the highly problematic ‘Parental Rights in Education’ bill—which most have since dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill—in March 2022. The legislation essentially prevents public school teachers in Florida from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity. Lovely stuff, right?
Shortly after, DeSantis doubled down, this time with the introduction of the ‘Stop Woke’ Act which set strict limits on how issues involving race may be taught and basically allowed parents to sue teachers and school districts that go against it.
Highlighting just how worrying and dire the state of the US’ current human rights situation is, Driskell ended her Tallahassee news conference with the question: “Are we really okay with Ron DeSantis deciding what’s acceptable for America’s students across the country about Black history?”