Creep of the Week: Florida Republicans

Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. "Ron DeSantis" by Gage Skidmore is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

I have to be honest, I have not been keeping up with the recent “Trump is going to jail” news. What I do know is that Trump is running to be president again and that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is also going to run. It certainly feels like Trump and DeSantis are competing for media coverage right now: one by getting arrested and the other by being as racist and anti-LGBTQ+ as humanly possible.

That’s right, DeSantis and Florida Republicans are putting the pedal to the metal on their extreme right-wing agenda in Florida.

Remember the “Don’t Say Gay” bill? The one that forbade discussion of gender identity or sexual identity in schools up through the third grade because it wasn’t appropriate for kids to know that LGBTQ+ people exist? And remember how Republicans swore up and down this was just to be extra special careful to protect young kids, end of story, nothing to see here?

Well, Republicans, who have a supermajority in the Florida legislature (which means they can literally pass anything they want and Democrats can’t do jack about it), are working hard to expand “Don’t Say Gay” through the eighth grade.

Florida State Sen. Clay Yarborough, who sponsored the bill, explains it this way, according to WFLA: “What we’re trying to do is make sure that a teacher is not forcing a student to provide a pronoun as a requirement and that a student doesn’t have to call someone by another name that they don’t feel comfortable with.”

In other words, what we’re trying to do is erase LGBTQ+ people and make it damn well clear that LGBTQ+ kids should not, and will not, exist in Florida. Also, apparently they want to make pronouns illegal? Good luck with that, morons.

Seriously, though, we all know that the war on pronouns is actually a war on people. Semantics matter. When you say you don’t want to be forced to call someone a name or use a pronoun that you aren’t comfortable with, what you mean is that you don’t feel comfortable having to acknowledge that a particular person exists in this world, and you would like to be protected from having to grapple with the fact that there are people of all kinds in this world and you don’t get to pick and choose who has humanity.

And if you thought that Florida Republicans were going to stop their hateful nonsense at eighth grade, well, think again. But also, you knew that.

Enter Florida House Bill 999, which aims to prohibit colleges and universities from funding “any programs or campus activities that espouse diversity, equity, or inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric,” according to The Hill.

If that sounds pretty broad, well, it is! And that’s intentional. Anything that teaches that racism exists and is bad is in the crosshairs of this bill. Also bye-bye to gender studies, women studies and queer theory. The lot of it. And because the bill is so broad, opponents have pointed out that it might do away with subjects like Jewish studies, too.

When racists were screaming from the rooftops that critical race theory was being taught in grade schools across the country, many people, rightly, pointed out that courses that teach anything like this are taught in college, not Kindergarten. Clearly Florida’s Republicans took that as a personal challenge.

Opponents of the bill point out that it could push BIPOC sororities and fraternities off campus and harm Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Florida has four). Democrats tried to get language in the bill that would mitigate this harm, but Republicans said, “Nah.”

“Today you have before you a bill that seeks to dictate what is learned at institutions of higher learning by adults,” Genesis Robinson, political director of Equal Ground, tells The Hill. “It just goes to show you that this fight was never about what is appropriate for children. It is about control, it is about censorship, it is about big government dictating who we love, what we learn, what pronouns we use, and what books our children can read.”

Yup. It’s not about protecting children. It never was. As I mentioned, Republicans have a super majority in Florida. DeSantis has his pen ready to sign the worst bills his legislature can present to him. Things aren’t going to get better in Florida for a long, long time.

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