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Florida Gov. DeSantis signs bills targeting drag shows, pronouns, bathroom use and transgender kids

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, sitting in front of several supporters at a desk with the state seal, throws a pen to someone
Gov. Ron DeSantis throws a pen into the crowd Tuesday at an evangelical Christian school in Lighthouse Point, Fla.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed bills into law Wednesday that ban gender-affirming care for minors, target drag shows, restrict discussion of “preferred pronouns” in schools and force people to use certain bathrooms.

DeSantis has made anti-LGBTQ+ legislation a large part of his agenda as he prepares to seek the Republican presidential nomination. He signed the bills in front of a cheering crowd at the evangelical Cambridge Christian School in Tampa. The ceremony had the feel of a campaign rally, with DeSantis tossing pens to a crowd, as opposed to when he signed measures on abortion and gun rights in private.

For the record:

7:27 p.m. May 17, 2023The caption for the photo of Gov. Ron DeSantis at his bill-signing ceremony originally said that it was in Tampa. The ceremony was in Lighthouse Point.

Democrats opposed the bills, and LGBTQ+ rallies were held at the Capitol during the session that ended two weeks ago, but Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers and easily approved the bills for DeSantis’ signature.

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“It’s kind of sad that we even have some of these discussions,” DeSantis told the crowd, standing behind a lectern with a sign reading, “Let kids be kids.”

DeSantis presented a narrative that expert panels in the nation’s major medical associations have said is false, including the idea that children are routinely being “mutilated.” While he said he is protecting parents’ rights, his opponents contend that he’s denying the rights of parents with transgender kids.

“They have cloaked themselves in being the party of less government and parental rights, and what we’re seeing now is the total opposite,” said Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones of Miami Gardens, who is gay. “Every other parent has the right to raise their child the way that they want to as long as your child is not gay, trans, bisexual. That’s freedom for some parents, but not for all parents.”

The gender care law also bans the use of state money for gender-affirming treatment and places new restrictions on adults seeking such treatment.

Transgender medical treatment for children and teens is increasingly under attack in many states and has lately been subject to restrictions or bans. But it has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations as appropriate care for people diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The guidelines generally rule out surgery for minors.

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Treatment typically begins with an evaluation for the distress caused when gender identity doesn’t match a person’s assigned sex. With parental consent, persistent dysphoria can be treated with hormones, but typically not until age 16. The guidelines also say surgery should be reserved for people 18 and older.

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DeSantis spoke to applause at the bill signing.

“We never did this through all of human history until like, what, two weeks ago? Now this is something? They’re having third-graders declare pronouns? We’re not doing the pronoun Olympics in Florida,” DeSantis said.

The ban on gender-affirming care and the law targeting drag shows go into effect immediately. The bathroom restrictions and the law banning schools from having children “provide his or her preferred personal title or pronouns” take effect July 1.

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Jones said the governor’s choice of venue displayed the unpopularity of his campaign platform.

“If he’s so confident in his policies, don’t go hiding behind signing the bills at a Christian school or place where you’re more prone to get praise for your bigotry,” Jones said. “Do it out in the community. “

Republican Rep. Randy Fine of Brevard County, who sponsored the ban on gender-affirming care for minors, invoked his religion to defend the state’s actions.

“God does not make mistakes with our children,” Fine said.

Jones called Fine’s take on the Bible disingenuous.

“For anyone to use Scripture in the same breath as you are being discriminatory and hateful towards a community of people, it don’t work like that,” Jones said. “You can’t take a book that was built on love and turn it around and fit your narrative.”

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