Thought The Donald was bad? The governor of Florida might just trump Trump. As such, we strongly advise you get familiar with staunch Republican Ron DeSantis, tipped as a future leader of the GOP Party and possibly the next US president…
The then-Member of the US House of Representatives from Florida’s 6th district receives a “0” rating from the Human Rights Campaign on LGBTQ-related legislation. A year before, he co-sponsored a bill preventing federal government from acting against discrimination against same-sex couples based on their “religious belief or moral conviction.”
DeSantis is accused of “straight-washing” the three-year anniversary of the Pulse massacre, in which gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 attendees of an LGBTQ+ nightclub, after issuing a statement making no reference to the LGBTQ+ and Latino identities of most of the victims. He later calls this a mistake, blaming a recently departed (and gay) colleague.
A year into his Florida governorship, DeSantis hints at personal progress by marking the four-year anniversary of Pulse, saying: “The State of Florida will not tolerate hatred towards the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities, and as Floridians we stand united against terrorism and hate of any kind.” Spoiler alert: he soon changed his tune.
On the first day of Pride month, DeSantis signs in the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, forbidding trans people from playing in women’s and girls’ scholastic sports. On the second day of Pride month, he vetoes proposals to provide $150,000 in state funding for counselling for Pulse survivors, and a $750,000 housing programme for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
Conceivably galvanised by national right-wing support to his anti-trans law, DeSantis signs in the Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay, Don’t Say Trans’ law. Similar to Russia’s ‘Gay propaganda law’ and the UK’s own Section 28, the law bans classroom discussion and “instruction” on sexuality and gender.
DeSantis signs four bills rolling back LGBTQ+ rights, including the criminalisation of providing gender-affirming care for minors, restrictions on drag performances, and a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ expansion — it now impacts all school grades from pre-school upwards. His signing of Senate Bill 1580, meanwhile, permits healthcare providers to deny a patient care on the basis of “conscience-based objections”. Imagine a religious zealot denying you PrEP — how would you feel?
The real-life Disney villain (the entertainment conglomerate opposes ‘Don’t Say Gay’) of course confirmed his presidential hopes back in May. If he beats other Republican hopefuls (including Trump), DeSantis will go up against President Joe Biden in the November 2024 election. If successful, his spate of Floridian anti-LGBTQ+ laws, which have escalated in their severity over the past few years and been dubbed the ‘Let Kids Be Kids’ package, could go federal — and their influence global.