Human Rights Campaign Denounces DeSantis’ 2024 Bid for President, Pledges to Keep Desperate Florida Man’s Authoritarianism from Reaching the White House

by Cullen Peele

Ron DeSantis, one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ governors in history, threatens decades-worth of hard-won equality and poses a risk to the rights of women, people of color, and all other Americans who refuse to comply with his extremist disdain for personal freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Human Rights Campaign — America’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization — released the following statement in response to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement that he will run for President in 2024:

In 2022, voters soundly rejected the divisive, cruel, and chaotic campaigns of MAGA politicians and Trump-imitators like Ron DeSantis. Dangerously out of step with average Americans’ views on freedom and equality, DeSantis has weaponized his position as governor to target and punish anyone he considers his political enemy, including LGBTQ+ families, Black and brown Floridians, immigrants and private businesses. Even with the majority of Floridians forcefully opposing his anti-LGBTQ laws and despite surging support for LGBTQ+ families nationally, DeSantis is failing to recognize the duties of the job for which he’s campaigning. The ‘freedom’ Ron Desantis peddles is freedom for a very few at the expense of freedom and liberty for all.

“The Human Rights Campaign will work to mobilize the 62 million ‘Equality Voters’ — for whom LGBTQ+ equality is a make-or-break issue — to stand together in opposition to DeSantis’ candidacy, and to ensure that his destructive path of weaving hate and bigotry into public law will end at the Florida border."

Kelley Robinson, Human Rights Campaign President

Today’s announcement follows travel advisories issued by Equality Florida and three national civil rights organizations -- LULAC, NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign -- warning individuals about extremism in the state. In the last two weeks, DeSantis has signed multiple targeted and discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law. On May 17, Governor DeSantis signed HB 1069, which silences educators by prohibiting any instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from Pre-K through 8th grade, SB 254, an extreme gender affirming care ban, and HB 1521, an anti-trans bathroom bill. Earlier this month, he also signed SB 266, which doubles down on his attacks on academic freedom, and SB 1580, a “​​License to Discriminate in Healthcare” bill that will allow healthcare providers and insurers to deny a patient care on the basis of religious, moral, or ethical beliefs. Under Governor DeSantis, Florida is enacting a record six expressly anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law just this year, more than the last seven years combined.

A polling memo released recently by the Human Rights Campaign highlights a series of recent national polls revealing that Americans are growing increasingly opposed to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation spearheaded by DeSantis and other extremist lawmakers, finding the push excessive and nothing more than “political theater.”

  • 64% of all likely voters think there is “too much legislation” aimed at “limiting the rights of transgender and gay people in America” — including 72% of Democrats, 65% of Independents, and 55% of Republicans [source].

  • Two recent national surveys report opposition to bans on gender affirming care — one indicating 54% opposition [source] and the other indicating 53% opposition [source].

  • Nearly six in 10 (58%) Americans oppose laws that would restrict drag shows or performances in their state, while 39% support legislation to restrict these performances. While 61% of Republicans are in favor of these bans, 73% of Democrats and 57% of Independents oppose the proposed limitations [source].

  • Majorities disapprove of banning LGBTQ+ content in schools — nearly 60% of Americans believe middle school libraries should include materials related to “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” [source]

DeSantis’ Blueprint for Bigotry

Throughout his first term as Governor and in this year so far, Ron DeSantis has not been shy about being one of the most anti-LGBTQ+, anti-woman, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-democratic gubernatorial leaders of all time. HRC has maintained a running list of discriminatory and harmful rhetoric, decisions, and policies established by Governor DeSantis and other members of his extremist regime. DeSantis’ track record calls attention to his dangerous and reckless leadership, void of any meaningful policy solutions, aimed to represent only a small portion of Floridians wishing to pull the emergency break on progress at all costs.

Disgraceful lowlights include:

  • One Week After DeSantis Banned Use Of Medicaid To Pay For Medical Treatment For Transgender Children, Data Showed Instances Were Rare: Last summer, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, announced a rule change that will — contrary to all medical best practices — deny gender affirming care to Floridians of all ages who rely on Medicaid. One week after Florida banned the use of Medicaid to pay for medical treatment of gender dysphoria, newly released data showed the number of transgender children getting such aid remains rare in Florida.

  • DeSantis Attacks on LGBTQ+ Youth: Ron DeSantis’ shameful “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” law first went into effect last year, targeting LGBTQ+ youth and educators across the state by preventing them from having and providing a safe, inclusive classroom. The law, initially applying to students through third grade, was expanded to students up to eighth grade this month. The “Stop WOKE Act” also went into effect last year, another dangerous bill limiting protected speech in workplaces with more than fifteen employees and classrooms by censoring honest dialogue about systemic racism, gender, and race discrimination. It also changes Florida’s employment discrimination statutes to give employees the ability to file discrimination claims against an employer engaging in trainings or discussions about Black history, LGBTQ+ issues, and other concepts of injustice and discrimination. In 2021, the Florida state legislature passed a bill banning transgender youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

  • DeSantis Vetoed Mental Health Funding For Pulse Victims: Gov. DeSantis continued his anti-LGBTQ+ crusade on the second day of Pride Month in 2021 by vetoing all funding for LGBTQ+ programs from the state budget. He also canceled funding that included money earmarked for mental health programming to support survivors of the Pulse Massacre, to house homeless LGBTQ children, and for Orlando’s LGBTQ Community Center.

  • DeSantis’ Spokeswoman Called Opponents Of Don’t Say LGBTQ+ Bill “Groomers”: Gov. DeSantis’ main spokeswoman suggested the Parental Rights in Education bill could fairly be called an “anti-grooming” bill. The bill at the time would prohibit teachers in public schools from discussing issues of sexual orientation or gender identity with children in grades kindergarten through third grade.

Anti-LGBTQ+ Rhetoric and Extremist Supporters:

  • During a South Carolina visit, DeSantis attacked LGBTQ+ people and trasngender-inclusive policies: “Gender ideology has no place in our K-12 school system,” DeSantis said. “It is wrong for a teacher to tell a student that they may have been born in the wrong body or that their gender is a choice.

  • During a brief U.S. Senate run ahead of the 2016 election, DeSantis was endorsed by The Family Research Council PAC: The FRC was founded by evangelical pastor James Dobson back in the early 1980s and has made false, dehumanizing claims about the LGBTQ+ community for decades. It is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  • DeSantis was praised by the American Principles Project for firing Andrew Warren, who spoke out in favor of abortion rights: DeSantis suspended a Tampa-area state elected attorney who had signed a pledge not to prosecute those who seek out or provide abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. This drew praise from Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, who has also stated that his organization’s end game is to ban gender affirming care for people of all ages.

Attacks on Drag Shows:

  • In March, DeSantis sought to revoke a liquor license from a Miami hotel for simply hosting a holiday-themed drag show: As a result of DeSantis weaponizing state agencies, multiple venues in Florida have started to shut down and cancel performances.

Attacks on LGBTQ+ Youth, Students, and School Curriculum:

  • The recent gender affirming care ban signed by DeSantis will give Florida the unprecedented ability to strip parental rights from parents who support their transgender children: SB 254 will penalize providers by inflicting criminal penalties (including felony penalties) on providers who give gender-affirming care; it will take licenses away from those providers; and it will prohibit Medicaid from covering gender-affirming care for transgender youth or adults. It will also forbid public funds, including those of a public university, public hospital, city or county, and Medicaid, from being used to provide benefits that include gender-affirming care – for transgender people of all ages. And – uniquely – it allows the state to use gender-affirming care or the “risk” of such care for a child as a reason to give Florida family courts exceptional jurisdiction to set aside another state’s custody determination.

  • Furthermore, Ron DeSantis has boasted about denying age appropriate, medically necessary gender affirming care for transgender youth: Ron DeSantis has compared gender affirming care to “disfiguring” children and has implied that surgical intervention for minors is common, which is false.

  • DeSantis is attacking academic freedom and dictating what students can and cannot learn: SB 266, signed into law by the Governor, will allow the state Board of Governors to give direction to universities on removing majors and minors in subjects like critical race theory and gender studies and would prohibit spending on programs or activities that support such curricula.

  • The “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” law is already having a chilling effect on classrooms: Under the DeSantis Administration, a Florida teacher is now under investigation for simply showing a Disney film featuring a gay, interracial character. Teachers have also been prompted to remove books from their classroom and to hide their relationships. Some teachers have also opted to leave the state.

  • DeSantis removed LGBTQ+ anti-bullying resources from the state website: Florida’s Department of Education (DOE) removed LGBTQ-inclusive antibullying resources from its website. The Florida Capital Star, a right-wing publication, had raised questions about the inclusion of the resources, and the DOE took down this information shortly afterwards.

Attacks on Transgender Athletes, Reproductive Rights, and Pro-Equality Cities

  • On the first day of pride month in 2021, DeSantis signed a transgender sports ban into law: The ban was tucked into SB 1028, an education bill about charter schools, which, by law, now prohibits transgender students from participating in sports at the secondary and post-secondary level consistent with their gender identity.

  • In April of this year, DeSantis signed one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country: The Governor signed a bill into law that will ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before pregnancy can be detected in most cases. The law also will require proof of rape or incest for victims of sexual violence seeking abortion services.

  • DeSantis is slated to sign a bill that will make it harder for cities and municipalities to protect their residents from his anti-LGBTQ+ regime: SB 170 would discourage cities from passing non-discrimination ordinances by raising the barriers to proposing ordinances and making it easier to challenge ordinances in court.

HRC’s Commitment to Mobilizing Equality Voters

Equality Voters are a voting bloc of demographically and geographically diverse Americans who are united by the advancement of LGBTQ+ equality. Equality Voters are younger, more racially diverse, and more female than the general electorate, they recognize and trust the HRC brand, and they are more likely to identify with issue-specific organizations than candidates or political parties.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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