Could Florida shut down charities helping LGBTQ+ people in need?
HB 599 would prohibit any contractor or organization receiving state funds from activity that considers individuals gender identity or sexual orientation.
Critics slammed the legislation as an extension of Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill to also regulate the activity of independent organizations.
“It would effectively ban all LGBTQ nonprofits in the state,” Alejandra Caraballo, a Harvard law instructor, posted on Threads. “They would not be able to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity at all. This is horrifying.”
HB 599 was introduced by Florida Rep. Ryan Chamberlin, a Republican elected to the Legislature this year. He notably holds the seat previously held by Rep. Joe Harding, the author of the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Harding resigned his seat last year and was recently sentenced to prison time after pleading guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to investigators.
The “Don’t Say Gay” law made it illegal for most elementary school teachers in public schools to include anything about sexual orientation or gender identity in classroom instruction.
The Legislature later extended the law to cover education through high school graduation.
Chamberlin’s bill notably focuses most of its text on protecting nonprofits that don’t recognize transgender identities. As written, HB 599 says the state will adopt a position of only recognizing sex based on the gender assigned at birth.
“It is the policy of the state that a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex,” according to HB 599.
HB 599 said contractors and state employees may not be required to use individuals’ preferred pronouns.
But Caraballo spotlighted language that could also impact numerous organizations dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ people, including queer youth.
“It is an unlawful employment practice for a nonprofit organization or an employer who receives funding from the state to require, as a condition of employment, any training, instruction, or other activity on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” according to HB 599.
It goes on to say that the language covers any nonprofit receiving state funding and any local government.
At the moment, no companion bill has been filed in the Florida Senate.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has not publicly weighed in on the bill, but he signed the “Don’t Say Gay” expansion and a host of other anti-LGBTQ policies last year before launching his ongoing campaign for president.
DeSantis also has a history of vetoing state grants dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth.
This article originally appeared on Advocate.com, and is shared here as part of an LGBTQ+ community exchange between Q Voice News and Equal Pride.