Florida lawmaker apologized for calling transgender people ‘demons’

State Rep. Webster Barnaby made the comments during committee meeting

ORLANDO, Fla. – Equality Florida, the state’s LGBTQ civil rights organization, is demanding Florida lawmaker State Rep. Webster Barnaby formally retract his words after he called transgender people “imps” and “mutants” and “demons.”

Barnaby, a Republican from Volusia County, only issued a brief apology after his comments in Tallahassee Monday, saying he would like to apologize to the “trans community” for referring to them as “demons.”

Barnaby directed his words at the transgender people in the committee room during a hearing on one of the so-called “bathroom bills” working its way through Tallahassee. They came to face the Florida House Commerce Committee on which Barnaby sits, and speak against the bill the committee was debating. This bill would make it a misdemeanor to use a bathroom that conflicts with one’s gender assigned at birth.

Republicans say the bills would protect children in private spaces. Critics say it would harass transgender people.

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“To all the folks in the audience who consider themselves gender dysphoria, I don’t know what that means,” Barnaby said. “I really don’t know what that means.”

“When you watch the X-Men movies or Marvel Comics it’s like we have mutants living among us on Planet Earth,” Barnaby continued. “And some people don’t like it but that’s a fact. The Lord rebuke you, Satan, and all of you are demons and imps who come parade before us. That’s right, I called you demons and imps who come and parade before us and pretend you are part of this world.”

Immediately, Democrats and Republicans on the Commerce Committee distanced themselves from Barnaby, who is a former Deltona city commissioner and self-described Christian conservative.

“I’m also a Christian man and I just want to say to the folks in here who shared their testimony I appreciate it speaking up,” said Rep. Chase Tramont, Republican from Port Orange. “You are not an evil being, I believe you are fearfully and wonderfully made and I want you to live your life as well.”

Rep. Kristen Arrington, a Democrat from Kissimmee, thanked the transgender people who spoke for their “bravery.”

“I also want to tell you that I see you and love you and am definitely still a little bit thrown off for the last comments here, and want to let you know there are many here who understand you and support you,” Arrington said.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, a strong Republican, was among the first to condemn Barnaby, calling him an embarrassment and tweeting that Barnaby can “find plenty of hate groups that might embrace his thinking.”

The Florida Antidefamation League is calling on Barnaby to “reflect on the impact of his hateful comments and formally retract his remarks.”

Barnaby has not formally retracted his comments.

Barnaby promised Monday he would not back down.

“I am sick and tired of this,” Barnaby said. “I’m not going to put up with it. You can test me and try and take me on but I promise you I’ll win every time.”

Pressure against Barnaby is growing, even from his own party.

Equality Florida called Barnaby “unhinged” and urged people to call the lawmaker and “tell him to resign.”

Barnaby has been a fixture in local politics since 2012, when he was elected to the Deltona City Commission, and then to the Florida House in 2020, serving as the only Black Republican in the House.

During his time in Tallahassee, Barnaby has filed several controversial bills, including an abortion bill last year that aimed to block doctors from doing an abortion if there was a “detectable fetal heartbeat.” It did not pass.

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.