Bills targeting transgender care, adult entertainment pass Florida House

2 bills on their way to Gov. DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Wednesday was a busy day for Florida lawmakers as three big bills passed in the House but not without fierce opposition.

Critics said the bills, HB 1521 (a bathroom bill), SB 1438 (adult live entertainment) and SB 254 (gender-affirming care), unfairly target the LGBTQ+ community.

Senate Bill 1438, also known as Protection of Children, aims to prevent children from attending “adult live entertainment.”

SB 1438 does not specifically mention drag shows, but the issue gained traction after a Christmas drag show in Orlando where children were present.

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The bill would allow the state to revoke licenses for offending businesses and impose fines. It also would prohibit permits for entertainment with “adult conduct” in a public space.

House Democrats opposed the bill and said it unfairly targets the LGBTQ+ community, contains broad language, and said there are other issues the legislature should be focused on.

“If you don’t want your kids to see these shows, news flash, don’t take them,” said State Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis, D-Orlando. “This body has insisted Florida parents should have every right to do just that. Parent. Every parent has the right to determine what is appropriate for their child. That is not the government’s job. Let’s be consistent. Or are we just consistently inconsistent?”

Republicans in favor of the bill said there is nothing in the legislation that prevents people from being themselves.

“To those who think they are being targeted by this bill, do what I did, read the bill,” said State Rep. Joel Rudman, R-Navarre. “Because there’s nothing in there that keeps you from being you.”

The sponsor of the bill’s companion, State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, has said the bill was meant to stop “radical transgender theory” and called “Drag Queen Story Time” and other drag queen events a gateway to that theory.

House Bill 1521 also passed in the house on Wednesday. That bill requires people to use the bathroom based on their biological sex.

Democrats said the bill will only further target transgender people. They also said the bill is creating a “fake moral outrage” and will further divide the country.

“That’s what this bill is going to do. It’s going to hurt people,” said State Rep. Jennifer Harris, D-Orlando. “I — please ask you to just vote no on this you can’t even enforce it. If there is one bill today this should be the bill, the line you can break and vote with your conscience and vote no on this bill.”

Republicans said transgender people were never mentioned in the bill and add they feel the legislation is increasingly necessary.

“When we named this bill the ‘safety in private spaces’ act, we were trying to capture the intent of this bill in just a few words,” said State Rep. Rachel Plakon, R-Lake Mary. “This bill, as much as any I’ve seen, will do exactly what the title says it will do.”

On top of HB 1521 and SB 1438, SB 254 also passed on Wednesday.

SB 254 addresses gender-affirming care for minors. The bill would block doctors or other providers from offering hormone therapy or puberty blockers to kids under 18.

If passed by the Senate, the law could also lead to felony charges for doctors who treat minors.

Republicans said the legislation is about protecting children.

“We have failed to give them the ultimate gender-affirming care,” said Fine. “To affirm they are creatures of God made in his image. That they were made the way they are and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said it’s been difficult seeing how this legislation could impact the transgender community.

“One of my constituents who is the parent of a trans son compared this situation to needing to dial 911 but no one is on the other line anymore,” Eskamani said.

There is an exemption in SB 254 for those who are currently receiving hormone therapy and puberty blockers for gender dysphoria. However, the law would require medical boards to create rules for transgender kids already receiving care.

HB 1521 and SB 254 still need another Senate vote before heading to the governor’s desk, but SB 1438 is ready for the governor’s signature.

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Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.