Florida governor Ron DeSantis to meet with Tory minister Kemi Badenoch on UK visit

James Cleverly, Ron DeSantis, Kemi Badenoch

Florida’s right-wing governor Ron DeSantis, architect of multiple anti-LGBTQ+ bills, is set to meet senior Conservative ministers on Friday (28 April), during a visit to the UK.

The Republican politician will meet with the secretary of state for business and trade and minister for women and equalities, Kemi Badenoch, and foreign secretary James Cleverly to promote direct foreign investment in Florida, despite recent warnings of the state being hostile to LGBTQ+ travellers.

DeSantis will also address a group of 50 business leaders at a private conference with Badenoch.

Ron DeSantis is a polarising figure in the United States due to the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation he has championed in Florida.

He is most famous for imposing the cruel Don’t Say Gay law on students across Florida, which prohibits all discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools. The legislation has been expanded twice since it was first introduced, and now covers students of all ages.

PinkNews has asked Kemi Badenoch and James Cleverly if either plan to challenge him on Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws, which have seen families flee the state under crackdowns on trans healthcare and drag shows.

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LGBTQ+ activists and organisations expressed “fear” when Badenoch was appointed minister for women and equalities minister by Rishi Sunak in October 2022, due to her history of anti-trans views.

Badenoch wrote to the EHRC, the UK’s human rights watchdog, in February 2023, to seek advice on what she describes as a “technical and contested area of law”, which could result in the Equality Act 2010 being rewritten to replace “sex” with “biological sex”.

During her time as women and equalities minister, Badenoch also reportedly paused work on a conversion therapy ban.

Britain’s right wing calls DeSantis a ‘courageous, bold leader’

Britain is the last stop on DeSantis’ trade mission which included visits to Japan, South Korea and Israel.

He has held talks with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu South Korean prime minister Han Duck-Soobut, but he will not be meeting Rishi Sunak due to diplomatic protocol and scheduling conflicts.

Right-wing British politicians are flocking to meet the anti-LGBTQ+ Florida governor and Nigel Farage’s party Reform UK has been chasing a private meeting, POLITICO reports

Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party) told POLITICO that DeSantis is a “courageous, bold leader” and the one Democrats should “fear”.

“He’s shown himself to be a courageous, bold leader and that’s very interesting. For me, I think he is actually the one that the Democrats fear.

Florida has expanded its ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, as Ron DeSantis gears up for a presidential run ((Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“DeSantis doesn’t muck about – he just gets stuff done and tells it as it is, which is very contrary to what the Washington elite want him to say” Tice continued.

Political pundits have called this worldwide trip a chance for DeSantis to bolster his foreign policy credentials ahead of the Republican Party’s presidential nomination where he will face off against indicted former president Donald Trump.

Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts University, told The Guardian that this trip appears to be a “box-checking exercise” as part of his presidential nomination campaign.