FLORIDA — (08-25-22) — Seven openly LGBTQ+ candidates running for state House and Senate seats in Florida, won their primaries on Tuesday night, advancing to November’s general election where Floridian voters will decide whether to triple LGBTQ+ representation in the state legislature.

Florida’s legislature made national headlines in January when conservative anti-LGBTQ state Republicans introduced the Parental Rights in Education bill — known worldwide as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — Restricts public school teachers’ ability to engage in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Florida senators passed the controversial legislation back in March, rejecting more than a dozen amendments that would have put in place protections for LGBTQ+ students and their families.

Wannabe dictator Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who also won his primary Tuesday night, signed the anti-Gay bill into law in March, accusing public school teachers during a press conference of pushing their “woke gender ideology” on Florida students and peddling “clearly inappropriate” learning materials.

Since March, copycat legislation has been introduced by right wing legislatures in Georgia, Ohio and Louisiana. A similar measure in Alabama, introduced in an amendment to another bill barring transgender students from using restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, was signed into law in April.

“We need to be proactively electing folks that create diversity so we have laws that protect all of us,” said Adam Gentle, a Florida Democrat who will face off against Rep. Jim Mooney Jr. (R) in November.

Gentle, an openly gay man who captured nearly 56 percent of the vote in his primary election on Tuesday, said he fears Florida — and the country — is progressing backward by crusading against things like LGBTQ+ affirmative supports at school and transgender health care.

“We were creating places for people to be their authentic selves, we were allowing kids to bring their full selves to school,” Gentle said. “I think what’s most frustrating about what we see happening today is that feeling of going backwards when so much progress has been made.”

Six other openly LGBTQ+ candidates in Florida also scored big wins and will advance to November’s general election: Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) and Michele Rayner (D), Sen. Shevrin Jones (D), Gabriel Gonzalez, who is running for a seat in Florida’s state House, and Eunic Ortiz and Janelle Perez, both of whom are running for state Senate seats.

On Tuesday, Florida voters also ousted Rep. James Bush III, the only House Democrat that voted to pass the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in February.

Nadine Smith, the executive director of the group Equality Florida, said Tuesday evening in a statement that Bush’s defeat is a “clear warning” from voters that “politicians will pay a price for their anti-LGBTQ agendas.”

In a poll released earlier this month by the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD, more than two-thirds of LGBTQ+ voters in Florida said they were “extremely motivated” to vote this election cycle, including more than half who said they were more motivated to vote this year than they were during the 2020 presidential election. Voters cited discriminatory policies backed by the state’s current elected officials, including the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“Florida’s LGBTQ voters and ally voters have grave concerns about their basic human rights, including access to abortion, freedom of speech, and evidence-based healthcare for LGBTQ youth,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD on Monday. “They’re motivated to make a difference in this crucial election.” said Ellis.

In July, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. instructed school leaders across the state to ignore guidance issued by the Biden administration that expands Title IX protections for transgender students.

Earlier this month, Florida’s Board of Medicine voted to initiate rule-making on a new standard of care for the state’s transgender youth, building on a recommendation from the state Health Department that gender-affirming medical care including puberty blockers and hormones should not be accessible to minors because young people lack the “cognitive or emotional maturity” to understand the risks associated with treatment.

The decision of the board — consisting of doctors appointed by DeSantis — clashes with guidance from major medical associations.

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) this month eliminated Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming health care, affecting an estimated 9,000 Florida Medicaid recipients who are transgender.

Article by: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer

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