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What the Florida "Anti-LGBT" Laws Actually Do
Plain English descriptions of their actual effects instead of media freakoutery
A veritable wall of freakoutery currently surrounds the State of Florida regarding several of their new laws related to LGBT issues, but when you actually read the text of modern media articles about them, they provide as little information as possible about what the laws would actually do, and devote maximal effort to driving their readers into a mouth frothing frenzy. I thought it might be helpful to look at each of the actual Florida laws, read the words in them, and explain what they actually do.
Generally, they look like this.
They have very little impact on adults. They have very little impact on gay men and lesbians. They are mostly focused on transgender minors and on gender segregated spaces. Several of them which are claimed to be “expressly against LGBTQ+” don’t have anything to do with LGBTQ+ at all, or only tangentially.
Some of them might be good laws. Some might be bad laws. I’m not going to make a claim one way or another here. But if you’re going to formulate an opinion about these laws, you should learn what the laws do, no matter your choice of political flavor.
SB 1438: Protection of Children
This law says that establishments can be fined for hosting “adult performances” that permit children to attend. It’s not drag-queen specific. There’s no mention of anything trans or LGBT, and there are specific carveouts for anything with literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. It is an ordinary pornography law applied specifically to live performances, and if any media organization includes this bill in their list of “anti-LGBT” laws then that media organization is stating tacitly that drag shows are factually pornography.
CS/CS/HB 1421: Gender Clinical Interventions
This bill is no longer active, and was replaced by CS/SB 254 below. If a media organization lists it today as an example of an anti-LGBT bill then they’re padding their numbers. But if an article from several months ago critiqued this bill in alarming fashion, that critique was probably justified at that time. There was some significant and egregious overreach in the 1421 version of the bill, which we will discuss briefly below.
CS/SB 254: Treatments for Sex Reassignment
This is more complicated, and has multiple functions.
A parent in split custody can’t unilaterally take a child out of Florida to give them a sex change or put them on gender hormones or hormone blockers.
Public Florida tax money can’t go towards sex reassignment surgery, puberty blockers, or gender changing hormones.
You have to put the biological sex of a newborn on the birth certificate.
Bans sex reassignment surgery, puberty blockers, or gender changing hormones in minors, but has a grandfather clause, and allows the state board to develop other exceptions.
Forces gender reassignment doctors to inform patients about the short and long term effects of those procedures, and the impact of those procedures on mental health.
Protects doctors who refuse to give gender procedures from litigation.
A doctor who performs sex reassignment surgery, or proscribes puberty blockers or gender changing hormones to minors is liable for physical or psychological injury borne by their patients due to the procedure.
Of note, the original bill (1421) banned insurance from covering gender medicine, made the liability clause universal instead of just to youth interventions, and made doctors liable for deaths connected to the care in a way that the final bill does not.
CS/CS/HB 1069: Education
This law also has multiple functions.
The word “sex” is clarified to mean biological sex at birth.
Public educators are to use the pronoun associated with the kids’ sex when referring to kids in the system.
Public educators may use other pronouns for trans adults but cannot be punished for choosing not to do so.
A school can’t hide a kid’s medical or mental health records from their parents, as is being done on the West Coast currently when a kid identifies as trans.
Classroom instruction specifically regarding sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited in Middle School and lower.
Sex education class shall teach that males impregnate females, and similar.
It’s longer than that, but most of the rest is just clean-up.
The “can’t hide the records” clause is two parts, and is vague, but seems specifically targeted at the practice on the west coast of allowing kids to change their pronouns and hiding that fact from their parents. It probably technically doesn’t need to be in there since the law also prohibits the school from changing forms to match a trans kid’s gender identity anyway.
CS/HB 1521: Facility Requirements Based on Sex
This is a very long bill that segregates restrooms, gym lockers, and showers in public buildings such as schools, prisons, and court houses by biological sex at birth. It states that all “covered entities,” which are these public buildings, must at a minimum either have a women’s facility and a men’s facility or a unisex facility. In referring to “unisex facilities,” they mean one-holers or family restrooms with changing stations and such, not one big shared gender neutral bathroom. Most of the remaining language is compliance related.
CS/SB 1580: Protections of Medical Conscience
A health care provider or health care payor has the right to opt out of participation in or payment for any health care service on the basis of a conscience-based objection. A health care provider may not be discriminated against or suffer adverse action because the health care provider declined to participate in a health care service on the basis of a conscience-based objection. “Conscience-based objection” means an objection based on a sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical belief.
This bill states nothing specific about LGBT. While it does protect doctors from being forced to perform transgender medical interventions against their will, the far more interesting thing to me is it appears to completely wipe away things like Covid-19 vax mandates for employment.
These Measures are Popular
The specific measures outlined in the above laws are popular among Americans nationwide, not just Florida.
Only 29% of Americans think “drag queen story hour” is appropriate for children.
58% of Americans oppose gender intervention medicine for minors.
77% of Americans believe discussing transgender identity issues is inappropriate for third grade and below, 70% considered it inappropriate from fifth and below, and 52% considered it inappropriate from eight grade and below as the Florida law lays out.
Public opinions on bathroom laws are basically split down the middle.
What’s truly interesting to me as this develops, is how the gap between the media’s perception of what is right, just, and popular seems to be diverging from the public’s view of the same thing. HWFO is not a publication which will take a position for or against any of these particular laws, but it does seem very clearly that the laws are not being portrayed accurately within the media ecosystem.