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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Equality Florida encourages LGBTQ+ community to speak up about proposed laws

Woman with blonde hair speaks at a podium surrounded by a crowd. Some people hold signs. A sign with the crossed out word "censorship" and the word "freedom!" is on the front of the podium.
Courtesy Equality Florida
Florida Rep. Michele Rayner (D-St. Petersburg) spoke at Equality Florida's Pride at the Capitol event Jan. 16, 2024. The advocacy group is encouraging Floridians to speak up about more than 20 laws proposed this year.

Equality Florida’s annual Pride at the Capitol event served as a kickoff to the group’s fight for LGBTQ+ rights. They urged lawmakers to vote against proposals they say threatens their safety.

Equality Florida is speaking out against over 20 new proposed laws that the advocacy group says target the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Hundreds of Floridians rallied at the Florida Capitol Tuesday to voice their opposition to the legislation, which includes bills that restrict the use of personal pronouns in government agencies (HB 599 / SB 1382) and place restrictions on critical care for transgender Floridians (HB 1233 and HB 1639).

Equality Florida senior policy advisor, Carlos Guillermo Smith, said that LGBTQ+ people and their allies are fed up with government intrusion in their private lives.

“We will decide what medical care we and our families need, not politicians,” Guillermo said. “We will resist the stripping away of our rights everywhere. Extremism threatens our freedom.”

Equality Florida’s annual Pride at the Capitol event served as a kickoff to the group’s fight for LGBTQ+ rights during the 60-day legislative session that started last week.

“We think it's critical for LGBTQ Floridians and their families and allies to show up to every fight. It lays the long-term foundation for changing hearts and minds,” Guillermo Smith said.

A group of people stand in an office. A few of them hold signs that say "Equality Florida" and "Pride Capitol."
Courtesy Equality Florida
Florida lawmakers and members of Equality Florida posed for pictures during the group's Pride at the Capitol event Jan. 16, 2024.

The Human Rights Campaign said that in 2023, Florida lawmakers passed six anti-LGBTQ+ laws, which was more than the previous seven years combined.

Equality Florida then issued a travel advisory which said the state may not be a safe place to move to or visit.

Guillermo Smith said that laws passed last year have driven LGBTQ+ Floridians out of the state.

“You have families, LGBTQ families that unfortunately have fled the state, because they want to make sure that they are able to raise their kids and raise their families in public schools who accept them and affirm them for who they are,” Guillermo Smith said.

Many of the Equality Florida and LGBTQ+ members who spoke at the press conference urged lawmakers to vote against the proposals, which they say threatens their safety.

“History will remember what you do this session and to my fellow Floridians. Stop for a moment, ask yourself, why are you being taught to hate your neighbor?” Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, said. “This is the moment where we say enough.”

Guillermo Smith is encouraging people to find their state senator or representative and express their views in favor or in opposition of the proposed laws. He said he has seen a lot of support, and Tuesday’s press conference is proof.

“Floridians and allies show up to every fight,” Guillermo Smith said. “If there are bills being heard in the legislative process (that) impact the lives and the existence of LGBTQ people, we want to make sure that we show our faces in those committee hearings, so that we can make sure that our voices are heard.”

To see Equality Florida’s 2024 legislative slate, click here.

Kayla Kissel is a WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for spring of 2024.