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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News: DeSantis is public enemy No. 1 of the LGBTQ community


There’s a cloud over this year’s Pride celebrations following the introduction of more than 500 state bills targeting LGBTQ rights and the ominous rise of Ron DeSantis as a top contender for the GOP presidential nomination.

Sure, let’s party a bit and celebrate the LGBTQ community’s tremendous progress, but then we must recommit to the many battles ahead, chief among them the 2024 race.

The Florida governor is the LGBTQ community’s public enemy No. 1 after spearheading draconian attacks on access to affirming healthcare for trans residents and expansion of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law through 12th grade. Apparently, DeSantis hasn’t heard of smartphones, Google, or the internet because blocking young peoples’ access to information is straight out of Communist China or Russia and absurdly impossible in the era of mobile devices and social media. 

Let’s be clear about the origins of his “Don’t Say Gay” law — it’s a page ripped directly from Vladimir Putin’s playbook. 

In late 2022, Putin signed a law expanding an existing ban on LGBTQ “propaganda,” criminalizing the promotion of same-sex relationships. The original law bans disseminating LGBTQ information to minors — sound familiar? The DeSantis law is so broad that you could be an 18-year-old high school senior banned from learning in social studies class that an openly gay man ran a credible campaign for president in 2020. 

These efforts to render us invisible and to even criminalize trans people for using the restroom are nothing short of dehumanizing. Another measure will allow healthcare providers (and insurers) in Florida to deny a patient care on the basis of religious, moral, or ethical beliefs. So a transgender crime victim who needs medical treatment could be abandoned because a healthcare worker holds religious objections to our community. 

This is authoritarian madness. And DeSantis doesn’t stop at the LGBTQ community. His six-week abortion ban is so out of step with Americans’ views that he signed it in the middle of the night. Another of his bills allows the state Board of Governors to nix majors and minors in subjects like critical race theory and gender studies in Florida’s colleges and universities and bars public funding for such curricula.

 Make no mistake that the ultimate outcome of these reckless, cruel attacks is that women and LGBTQ Floridians will die. Trans youth are rightly frightened by the messages coming from DeSantis and his ilk and now that he is an announced candidate for president, we should all be afraid. Young people will take their own lives; trans people who need affirming care will be denied; women who need reproductive healthcare will be forced into dire circumstances; LGBTQ patients will be turned away by emergency personnel. And the demonization of trans people has consequences far beyond Florida. One mother of a trans teen told the Blade that her daughter wants to sleep with a gun under her pillow even though she lives in a supportive home in a blue state because of all the hate and bigotry coming from Florida. In New Hampshire, 14-year-old Nova Dunn, who was trans, leapt off an overpass onto Interstate 293 last month and died. 

DeSantis and his ilk aren’t just failing our kids; they are targeting them. The far right has made no secret of its desire to “eradicate transgenderism.” 

The best way to stop them is at the ballot box. With the 2024 campaign already underway, LGBTQ Americans and our allies must denounce these attacks and hold those responsible accountable. DeSantis must not be allowed to nationalize his assault on our community. It’s important that we all tune in because Donald Trump increased his share of the LGBTQ vote from 2016 to 2020. According to Edison Research, Joe Biden won the LGBTQ vote 61-28 percent over Trump in 2020; but in 2016, Hillary Clinton won the LGBTQ vote 78-14 over Trump. President Biden’s campaign must address that counterintuitive development.

So let’s enjoy the celebratory aspects of Pride month, while ensuring that we are informed citizens and engaged voters ready to reject hate in 2024.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him a knaff@washblade.com.

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