Human rights group issues ‘heartbreaking’ warning against LGBTQ+ travellers visiting Florida

LGBTQ+ rights supporters protest against Florida Governor Ron Desantis, holding up signs criticising DeSantis and his support of the state's 'Don't Say Gay' legislation

Equality Florida has taken the “unprecedented step” of issuing travel advice to LGBTQ+ people planning to visit the Sunshine State. 

The LGBTQ+ civil rights organisation has issued the advice on the health, safety and freedom risks posed to queer people following the passage of several anti-queer bills in the south-eastern state. 

It is believed to be the first time a state has issued such a warning to potential travellers.

Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, said, as an organisation which works to improve Florida’s reputation for LGBTQ+ equality, that it was with “great sadness” that they have had to issue the travel advisory. 

In recent months, Florida has been at the forefront of the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being tabled across the United States that seeks to ban drag, prohibit gender-affirming care, prevent trans people from playing sports and roll back anti-discrimination protections. 

In March 2022, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as Don’t Say Gay, into law. 

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The legislation bans teachers and third parties from talking about LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom up to third grade, with plans put forward in February to expand its reach to eighth grade

DeSantis has also removed LGBTQ+ books from schools and even banned an AP African American studies course from Florida high schools, arguing it lacked “educational value”. 

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Ron DeSantis in front of a US flag
Ron DeSantis and other Republicans’ attacks on LGBTQ+ have been branded relentless. (Getty)

In the Equality Florida statement, Nadine Smith added: “While losing conferences and top students, who have written off Florida, threatens lasting damage to our state, it is most heart-breaking to hear from parents who are selling their homes and moving because school censorship, book bans and healthcare restrictions have made their home state less safe for their children.”

“We understand everyone must weigh the risks and decide what is best for their safety, but whether you stay away, leave or remain, we ask that you join us in countering these relentless attacks.”

“Help reimagine and build a Florida that is truly safe for and open to all, and where freedom is a reality, not a hollow campaign slogan.”

The advisory outlines the state’s targeted attacks on academic freedom, the arts, sport and medical freedom as well as LGBTQ+ censorship. 

“Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights, pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those travelling to the state,” the advisory stated. 

“It is our hope, that those Floridians who can, will stay and engage more deeply in the fight against the state’s all-out assaults on democracy and freedom. 

“This moment calls for a grassroots movement in defence of justice and equality for all, so that we can turn back the tide of right-wing authoritarianism, recommit to building a state that is safe and open to all, and once again celebrate Florida as a free state.”

CBS News has reported that Florida had a record 137.6 million visitors in 2022 with people from other states accounting for 93 per cent of the total.

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