1200 Weimer Hall | P.O. Box 118405
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-5551

A service of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

© 2024 WUFT / Division of Media Properties
News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

LGBTQ advocates decry Florida legislation at pride month town hall

About 200 people attended the North Central Florida Town Hall at University Club, on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Jiselle Lee/WUFT News)
About 200 people attended the North Central Florida Town Hall at University Club, on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Jiselle Lee/WUFT News)

June marks the celebration of National Pride Month, and on Thursday more than 200 people filled Gainesville’s only LGBTQ bar, The University Club, for a panel discussion.

The panel spoke about legislation affecting LGBTQ people in Florida, including those related to the expansion of what critics called the "Don't Say Gay" law (HB 1069), a ban on gender-affirming care (SB 254), a restriction on a person's ability to choose which public restroom to use (HB 1521) and the law cracking down on drag show performances (SB 1438). They also discussed how they thought SB 1580 would give healthcare providers a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and how SB 266 would attack diversity, equity and inclusion on college campuses.

HB 1069, known commonly as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and SB 266 have been criticized for potentially making it harder for teachers and students to talk about their sexuality and gender identity in school.

Panelists said SB 254 and HB1521 target transgender individuals by limiting healthcare offered to transgender people and requiring people to be confined to the bathroom of the sex on their birth certificate.

SB 1438 allows fines and revocation of licenses of places that have put on “adult live performances” in the presence of children. According to the panelists, the vague language of the bill makes it possible that the bill could target drag performers who participate in public parades or events.

Lawyer Simone Chriss, director of Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel, was one of the panelists. She explained the impact and complexities of bills.

“The best way you can help is to share the accurate information we talked about today and dispel misinformation,” Chriss said.

Gina Duncan, another panelist and an Equality Florida member, spoke about her experiences as a transgender woman. Specifically, she identified HB 1521, which will require the division of public bathrooms by gender.

“Who’s going to enforce this?” Duncan said. “It’s unenforceable.”

She said these bathroom bills are targeted toward transgender women because the state is afraid.

“Do you have your birth certificate on you?” Duncan said. “I don’t. Panty check? That might be a little cumbersome.”

“The goal here is erasure,” Duncan said.

Gainesville City Commissioner Casey Willits and Alachua County Commissioner Mary Alford identified important courses of action to prevent LGBTQ discrimination.

Willits said all allies should support LGBTQ issues.

“Don't let them sit in that dark place where they're contemplating the discriminatory bills and they're like, ‘Yeah, I can give up on portions of the LGBTQ community,’” he said.

“Don't let them do it. Pull them back in,” Willits said.

Giselle Scarano and Grace Kelly, newlyweds from Ohio, moved to Gainesville three weeks ago to complete their residency at UF Shands.

They wanted to move to Florida to be closer to family, and they specifically requested to be matched at UF Shands to live in Gainesville.

“We knew that it was going to be difficult with Florida and especially being married to a woman, we wanted to come here,” said Scarano, 28.

“We feel like we’re in a place where we feel safe to be ourselves and be a married gay couple,” said Kelly, 26.

Kelly said she appreciates that the town hall spoke about Florida’s laws because she was unfamiliar with their details.

“I feel like I’ve been fed the fear-mongering explanations of the bills in the past,” Kelly said.

Jiselle is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.