© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Advocates say a new anti-LGBTQ bill could have 'chilling effect' on groups serving the community

Daylina Miller

Equality Florida is one of several LGBTQ+ groups pushing back against HB 599, a bill that would not only regulate the use of personal pronouns in public and private workplaces, but also prevent culturally sensitive training that would help them better serve the queer community.

A bill filed in the Florida Legislature could impact the work of groups in Florida who employ or serve members of the LGBTQ+ community.

House Bill 599 - another extension of what critics call the "Don't say LGBTQ" law - would force transgender and nonbinary employees working for state agencies, nonprofits, or any group that receives state funding to use the personal pronouns associated with their sex assigned at birth.

Every major medical association supports gender-affirming care for transgender people – which includes using their chosen name and pronouns.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, senior policy advisor for Equality Florida, and a former member of the Florida House of Representatives, said conservative lawmakers obsess over LGBTQ+ people to "avoid the real issues.”

“Culture wars are all far right politicians have. They have absolutely no solutions to rising costs or to the real problems that are facing hardworking Floridians,” Guillermo Smith said.

“Florida workers, they don't need protection from pronouns or from inclusive work environments, what they need is better wages and lower costs to be able to afford living here in the state of Florida.”

Transgender teachers in Hillsborough and Lee counties are suing the state over a similar law that affects public school employees.

RELATED: Hillsborough teacher is among three to sue over Florida's personal pronoun law

Guillermo Smith said that while respecting people’s pronouns is important, this bill “goes even beyond the regulation of pronouns to impose unprecedented political control over the activities of all nonprofits, regardless of funding source, especially LGBTQ or affiliated charities.”

It would also restrict the same organizations from requiring training, instruction, or other activities related to sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

"That means that a healthcare organization that certainly serves the LGBTQ community would not be able to require a culturally competent sensitivity training for their employees so that they can better serve those LGBTQ patients,” Guillermo Smith said.

He said that while news media outlets have reported that Equality Florida and other LGBTQ+ groups could be shut down if the bill passes into law, he said that’s unlikely, but it would make their work significantly more challenging.

He said “intentionally vague” language in the bill could have a “chilling effect” on these organizations.

“It's blatantly unconstitutional. And it's really an attempt to stop the work of so many of these good organizations in the wake of anti-LGBTQ laws.”

Guillermo Smith said there’s still a lot that’s unknown about the bill, and the language could change as it makes its way through the legislative process early next year.

He encourages people to join Equality Florida at its annual Pride at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 to meet with lawmakers and advocate against discriminatory bills.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.