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LGBTQ and Immigrant Rights Groups Issue Travel Advisories for Florida

Civil rights organizations have warned that any travel to Florida should be approached with “extreme caution.”

LGBTQ rights supporters protest against Florida Governor Ron Desantis outside a campaign event on November 6, 2022, in Fort Myers, Florida.

LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida issued an unprecedented travel advisory on April 12, warning LGBTQ people of the risks that traveling or relocating to Florida could pose to their health, safety and freedom.

“The advisory comes after passage of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ+ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety laws and allow untrained, unpermitted carry, and foment racial prejudice,” the travel advisory states. “The Governor has also weaponized state agencies to impose sanctions against businesses large and small that disagree with his attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Equality Florida warned that the state legislature, working in tandem with Governor Ron DeSantis (R), is currently conducting a broad attack on medical freedom and bodily autonomy, businesses that support LGBTQ people, and LGBTQ participation in art, entertainment and sports.

The travel advisory also warned of GOP lawmakers’ campaign to censor and erase the LGBTQ community through an expansion of the state’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” law, which currently prohibits discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 public school classrooms, as well as other attacks on academic freedom in the state.

In this year alone, Florida has advanced 10 anti-LGBTQ bills, which would criminalize transgender people who use restrooms or changing facilities of their choice, ban gender marker changes on birth certificates, legalize the “kidnapping” of trans children by their parents, ban anyone under 18 from attending drag performances, and create criminal penalties for medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care for trans youth. A Florida board of medicine rule passed last month also banned gender-affirming care for minors who have not yet begun treatment.

“I never thought I would see the day where it is too dangerous to visit my home state and family,” said Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s Cyberlaw Clinic. “I had to spend an hour on the phone with my grandmother the other day explaining why I can’t visit her this summer.”

In addition to Florida’s assaults on LGBTQ families, the state has been attacking reproductive justice and immigrant communities, repealing gun safety laws, and fomenting racial prejudice, the advisory warns.

“Governor Ron DeSantis, who has made the extremist policies the centerpiece of his presidential campaign strategy, has weaponized state agencies to silence critics and impose sanctions on large and small companies that dissent with his culture war agenda or disagree with his attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Equality Florida said.

The legislature is currently considering making it more difficult for college students to vote, implementing a 6-week abortion ban, making it a felony for anyone in the state to transport an undocumented immigrant in their vehicle, and prohibiting diversity, equity, and inclusion projects at public universities.

“You can’t be a state of the future if you’re passing draconian laws — banning books, banning ideas, banning types of people — that are more reminiscent of 1950 or even 1850,” California state Senator Scott Wiener (D) said in response to Equality Florida’s travel advisory. “Florida’s experiment in fascism is terrifying.”

Advocates have pointed out that many of these policies will disproportionately affect Black and Brown people. Barbara Ransby, historian, author and longtime activist, explained in an op-ed for Truthout:

DeSantis’s dangerous actions are textbook proto-fascist measures… DeSantis’s actions are about intimidation, silencing potential dissident voices, preempting critical thinking from young people that might lead to informed political action, and flexing his muscle to silence voices that do not echo his own. But his actions are also racist.

In March, the Florida NAACP voted to recommend that the national NAACP board issue a nationwide travel advisory against visiting or moving to the state, because of the impact of DeSantis’ policies on Black people. DeSantis has derided the call for a travel advisory as a “joke.”

“We are an organization that protects people’s civil rights, and this is a first step to doing that,” Hillsborough County NAACP President Yvette Lewis told Tampa Bay Times. “People are seeing what’s happening in Florida. They’re paying attention, and I hope that help is coming.”

The Florida Immigrant Coalition, which is comprised of more than 65 organizations, has also issued a travel advisory, warning that any travel across the state should be done with “extreme caution.”

“Due to unconstitutional legislation supported by Governor Ron DeSantis and introduced by Legislative leadership, every county in Florida poses a heightened risk of harassment, possible detainment, and potential family separation based on racial profiling,” the travel advisory states.

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