Metro Weekly

NAACP, HRC Issue Florida Travel Advisories

Civil rights groups have issued travel advisories to Florida in response to new laws targeting diversity initiatives and the LGBTQ community.

Photo: Pavel Kapysh, via Dreamstime

Two prominent national civil rights groups — the NAACP and HRC — have issued travel advisories to Florida over a spate of policies they say are hostile toward Black Americans, immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People issued a travel advisory on Saturday, warning of the Sunshine State’s charged political atmosphere and efforts by Gov. Ron DeSantis and allies “to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the advisory reads. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by, African Americans and other communities of color.” 

The NAACP’s action follows a similar travel warning issued last Wednesday by the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Hispanic civil rights organization, over legislation affecting undocumented immigrants, and a pair of travel advisories issued by statewide LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition last month. 

While all those advisories do not explicitly recommend against traveling to Florida, they do urge travelers to be aware of the political situation on the ground, which could impact certain communities.

In particular, the NAACP has expressed concerns about a bill signed into law by DeSantis defunding diversity programs at state universities and colleges, as well as laws imposing additional barriers to vote on “returning citizens,” or those previously incarcerated, and permitting concealed carry of guns, reports The New York Times.

Florida’s efforts to roll back diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are part of a larger cultural battle that DeSantis, an aspiring presidential contender who is poised to announce his candidacy on Wednesday, has waged against what Republicans claim are efforts to “indoctrinate” Floridians, particularly youth in public schools and on college campuses, into embracing left-wing ideological beliefs around race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender.

That fight has extended to his ongoing spat with The Walt Disney Company over some of its programming content, and, even more importantly, the company’s previous public opposition to a law prohibiting LGBTQ content from being addressed in schools.

DeSantis has sought to rip away local control over the special tax district containing most of Walt Disney World Resort’s properties as punishment for speaking out against the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which has prompted the company to sue the state.

Disney also recently canceled a plan to build an office complex in Orlando that would have cost about $1 billion to build and would have brought thousands of jobs to the state, citing the hostile climate the company has faced in Florida as part of DeSantis’s larger “anti-woke” campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign pointed to several other anti-LGBTQ bills that the governor has signed into law. Those bills include an expansion of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, complete with a new process of getting books banned from schools, a law restricting transgender people’s ability to access gender-affirming restrooms, and a ban on gender-affirming health treatments for transgender minors.

Another bill signed into law categorizes drag performances as equivalent to stripping, nude dancing, or burlesque shows. It seeks to bar such “adult live performances” from public spaces or venues where they may be viewed by children — or where opponents may claim that sexual content was viewed by children, regardless of whether the evidence for such claims is shaky at best.

Those bills, promoted heavily by DeSantis and Republican allies as essential to protecting children from being “indoctrinated,” have led HRC to partner with Equality Florida in issuing an updated travel advisory to the state.

“Because of Ron DeSantis and his frenzied appeal to extremists, LGBTQ+ people in Florida are finding themselves in a state of emergency every single day,” HRC president Kelley Robinson said in a statement. “Since the day he took office, Governor DeSantis has weaponized his position to weave bigotry, hate, and discrimination into public law for his own political gain.  We see it as our duty to join Equality Florida — and LULAC and the NAACP — to provide guidance to our community.

“Those who visit [Florida] must join us in their vocal opposition to these dangerous policies. Those who pick another place to work, to go to school or to spend their vacation should make clear why they’re not heading to Florida. And to all of our friends and family in Florida, we stand with you and with Equality Florida — we’ll keep working hard to make Florida feel more like the home you deserve it to be.”

The updated advisory from the LGBTQ groups warns visitors of the increasing restrictions being placed not only on transgender youth, but transgender adults, in terms of health care access.

It warns visitors that, beginning in July they could face criminal penalties for attempting to use a public, multi-user restroom matching their gender identity, and suggests that Pride celebrations may be curtailed because of the presence of drag queens and the disproportionate weight that the state would give to anybody complaining about alleged sexually explicit performances.

“Florida has recently adopted a slate of hateful policies that directly target the rights of LGBTQ individuals and basic freedoms broadly,” the advisory reads. “Already, those policies have led many Florida parents to relocate, prospective students to cross Florida colleges and universities off their lists, events and conferences to cancel future gatherings, and the United States military to offer redeployment for service members whose families are now unsafe in the state.

“Throughout Florida’s legislative session, and now with the enactment of the most anti-LGBTQ legislation in state history, we want to provide a clear-eyed summary of  the real world impacts from these dangerous policies so that people can make informed decisions regarding travel or relocation to and from the state. 

“Our message remains the same: whether you select Florida as your destination or not, consider how you can 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.”

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