Florida LGBTQ+ ‘safe places’ program under threat from Republican lawmakers

LGBTQ+ protests in Florida

A number of Republican lawmakers in central Florida have warned against the state’s LGBTQ+ Safe Place Initiative and said they are considering “all legislative, legal and executive options available” to prevent it from going ahead.

The city-sponsored program, which is in operation in the town of Mount Dora, gives local business owners the option to display rainbow decals in their windows to inform members of the LGBTQ+ community who feel threatened that they are a ‘safe place’.

“The mission of the Safe Place Initiative is to provide the community with easily accessible safety information and safe places throughout the city they can turn to if they are the victims of an anti-LGBTQ+ or other hate crimes,” reads an explainer of the program on the official City of Mount Dora website.

Mount Dora city council approved the Safe Place Initiative this August, following in the footsteps of other neighbourhoods throughout Orlando and across the US.

A photo of a Pride parade showing flags with rainbow colours being held
A ‘safe places’ initiative in Orlando could be under threat by Republican lawmakers. (Stock photo via Getty)

Other Safe Place Initiatives have been sponsored by the Orlando Police Department, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

That’s why it might have taken some residents by surprise when four Republican lawmakers wrote in a letter to Mount Dora officials that they were concerned about the initiative.

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According to AP News, lawmakers expressed fears that the optional program might put central Florida “in the crosshairs of potentially detrimental and absolutely unnecessary economic harm.”

The letter reportedly cited recent boycotts of brands like Bud Light and Target as a result of their efforts to support and promote LGBTQ+ inclusion and diversity.

Bud Light came under fire from right-wing consumers after transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney uploaded just one social media post sponsored by the beer brand.

Outraged responses ranged from beer boycotts to smashing displays in public to musician Kid Rock filming himself shooting cans of the beer.

Bud Light Boycott
Bud Light faced heavy backlash over Dylan Mulvaney’s post. (Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, US retail giant Target took a sales hit this summer after unveiling its LGBTQ+ Pride-themed collection.

Not only did the brand report a slump in profits but it was forced to remove or hide their displays for the “safety and wellbeing” of their staff members when protests turned violent.

As reports of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in Orlando – including the devastating vandalism of an LGBTQ+ centre’s murals just last week – increase, this is a time when the city needs safe spaces most.

Reacting to the letter to Mount Dora officials, Democratic Floridian lawmaker Anna Eskamani described it as “the weirdest letter I’ve ever read.”

Sharing a copy of the letter to social media in a post seen by AP News, she wrote: “Let LGBTQ+ (people) exist and stop politicizing everything!

“So much manufactured panic from the right. Meanwhile, families can’t even afford to live in Florida. Focus on that instead.”