Metro Weekly

LGBTQ Group Issues Travel Advisory to Florida

In "unprecedented step," Equality Florida warns the LGBTQ community of the consequences of visiting or moving to Florida.

Illustration by Todd Franson

Equality Florida, the Sunshine State’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, has taken the extraordinary step of issuing a travel advisory, warning LGBTQ people of the risks posed to them should they choose to travel or relocate there.

The advisory comes in response to a slew of anti-LGBTQ laws or policies that have been pushed through the state legislature.

These include the state’s notorious “Parental Rights in Education” law — dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics — as well as attempts to restrict gender-affirming care for minors, deny coverage for gender-affirming treatments for adults, and or penalize venues that host drag shows where they allegedly could be viewed by minors.

The advisory also cites the passage of other laws impacting members of the LGBTQ community, including those restricting access to reproductive health care, repealing gun safety measures, censoring curriculum and banning books that deal with race, racism, or the representation of gender and sexual minorities in the name of opposing “woke” ideology.

The advisory is “an unprecedented step,” and Equality Florida detailed how the passage of these various laws — favored by Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature as well as the governorship — negatively impact or target not only members of the LGBTQ community, but Black communities, immigrants, proponents of academic freedom, returning citizens, and even parents who make non-traditional choices in terms of what their children can read.

The organization has pointed to news stories detailing the impact of those laws, and the decisions by Floridians to consider leaving the state, pursue higher educational offerings elsewhere, cancel planned conferences or other gatherings, and even prompting the U.S. military to offer redeployment for service members whose families feel unsafe in the state.

Liberal states have begun passing “safe haven” laws to provide refuge for people — including transgender youth, their parents, or women seeking abortions, for example — who have been targeted by lawmakers as part of Florida’s rightward shift on cultural issues.

Equality Florida has also noted that Disney CEO Bob Iger — whose company has been targeted by Florida Republicans as retribution for opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” law — has warned that Florida, especially under Gov. Ron DeSantis, has pursued an “anti-business” agenda that infringes on companies’ free speech rights if they hold political positions contrary to those preferred by DeSantis and his allies.

“As an organization that has spent decades working to improve Florida’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live work and visit, it is with great sadness that we must respond to those asking if it is safe to travel to Florida or remain in the state as the laws strip away basic rights and freedoms,” Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, said in a statement to Metro Weekly.

“While losing conferences, and top students who have written off Florida threatens lasting damage to our state, it is most heartbreaking to hear from parents who are selling their homes and moving because school censorship, book bans and health care restrictions have made their home state less safe for their children,” Smith said.

Equality Florida also noted that other groups have taken similar steps, with the Florida Immigrant Coalition issuing its own travel advisory warning undocumented immigrants — as well as any legal residents who shelter, accompany, or provide transportation to them — to reconsider coming to Florida.

Two weeks ago, Florida chapters of the NAACP voted unanimously to request similar warnings to the Black community about the risk of traveling or relocating to the state.

“Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state,” Equality Florida noted in the travel advisory.

“We regret that these attacks have already led many to flee the state and are driving others to consider relocation. And, in a state whose economy is fueled by visitors from around the world, it is with great sadness that Equality Florida has had to take the extraordinary step of responding to inquiries by issuing an official advisory warning about the risks of travel to the state.

“It is our hope that those Floridians who can, will stay and engage more deeply in the fight against the state’s all-out assaults on democracy and freedom. This moment calls for a grassroots movement in defense of justice and equality for all — so that we can turn back the tide of right wing authoritarianism, recommit to building a state that is safe and open to all, and once again celebrate Florida as a free state.”

Read the full text of Equality Florida’s travel advisory here.

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