Washington, D.C. Today, the Florida Senate passed the "Stop WOKE Act" (House Bill 7), and the bill now heads to Governor Ron DeSantis' desk for his signature or veto. If enacted, the bill would limit protected speech in workplaces with more than fifteen employees and classrooms by censoring honest dialogue about systemic racism, gender, and race discrimination. It would also change 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.
"Anti-equality legislators in Florida must stop advancing discriminatory bills that attack marginalized groups. House Bill 7 is a shameful attempt to censor critical conversations about important issues that impact vulnerable communities, including LGBTQ+ people. Injustice on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and racial identiy exists, despite any attempts by the state legislature to sweep it under the rug," said Cathryn M. Oakley, State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign. "The so-called 'Stop WOKE Act' will have negative consequences across the state of Florida, not just for individuals but also for businesses. Governor DeSantis must veto this bill."
Last week, more than 100 companies vocalized opposition for the wave of anti-LGBTQ bills advancing through the Florida state legislature. Top companies including Marriott, Hilton, American Airlines, and AirBnb reported that they have difficulty with recruitment, retention, and tourism in states that debate or pass legislation that excludes LGBTQ+ people from full participation in daily life, and that includes the children of their valued employees and recruits. These policy fights negatively impact businesses operationally and financially, and needlessly put the safety and wellbeing of their team members and their families at risk.
The Human Rights Campaign also opposes the "Don't Say Gay or Trans" bill (HB 1557), which is also headed to Governor DeSantis' desk. If enacted, this dangerous bill would prohibit teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, undermining existing protections for LGBTQ+ kids in schools.
Legislative Attacks on LGBTQ+ People
In 2021, 25 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were enacted in states across the country 13 of which were anti-transgender laws across 8 states making it the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
More than 290 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced across 33 states in 2021, including more than 140 specifically anti-transgender bills. Each of these marks set a new record for anti-equality legislation being introduced and enacted in a single state legislative session since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking legislation.
A Coordinated, National Effort to Fear Monger and Marginalize LGBTQ+ People
Groups like the Heritage Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom, Eagle Forum, and others are at the helm of this effort, seeking to use LGBTQ+ rights as a political wedge.
These bills are the result of a concerted effort by right-wing organizations that have been battling against LGBTQ+ progress for years. Across recent elections, one of the key anti-equality groups working to turn back decades of LGBTQ+ progress has been the American Principles Project (APP). APP and its chief underwriter Sam Fieler have invested millions of dollars in support of anti-LGBTQ+ candidates. In 2020, APP spent more than $2.6 million in ad spending in support of anti-equality candidates. In Virginia in 2021, APP spent at least $300,000 on digital advertising in support of Glenn Youngkin's gubernatorial campaign.
Restoration PAC, run and funded by major anti-LGBTQ+ bankroller Dick Uihlein, spent at least $1.9 million in advertising across Virginia in support of Youngkin and donated $942,000 to the political arm of anti-abortion group Women Speak Out Virginia. Anti-equality group Free to Learn Action launched a $1 million ad campaign spreading widely debunked anti-transgender misinformation in support of Youngkin's campaign.
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.