New Florida Bill Aims to Bring ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Into Workplaces

A Florida Republican wants to expand the some of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” gender identity restrictions into the Sunshine State’s workplaces.

On Tuesday, Florida state Rep. Ryan Chamberlin introduced HB 599, a bill that would ban government employees from being required to use the preferred pronouns of their colleagues, prohibits the penalization of employees on the “basis of deeply held religious or biology-based beliefs,” and makes it unlawful for nonprofits or employers receiving state funds to require employees to undergo training on matters of sexual/gender identity or gender expression.

“It is the policy of the state that a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex,” the bill reads. An employee or contractor would not be required to “refer to another person using that person’s preferred personal title or pronouns if such personal title or pronouns do not correspond to that person’s sex.” Additionally, the proposed law bars employers from asking for a person’s preferred pronouns and prohibits employees and contractors from providing their preferred pronouns themselves if those pronouns do not align with their sex.

HB 599 follows HB 1557, commonly referred to as “Don’t Say Gay,” which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in March 2022. The law originally prohibited classroom instruction on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation in pre-K through the third grade. Its vague wording and broad application were later used by the DeSantis administration to expand many of the restrictions up through the 12th grade.

One major point of concern raised by Chamberlin’s bill is its targeting of nonprofit organizations. In barring tax-exempt groups from conducting “any training, instruction, or other activity on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” the bill could have negative repercussions on nonprofits, medical clinics, and advocacy organizations that work with members of the LGBTQ community.

On X, formerly Twitter, civil rights attorney and LGBTQ advocate Alejandra Caraballo pointed out that organizations like Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, would be barred from conducting vital training and discussions with employees. “Just like the original ‘Don’t Say Gay’ they make vague terms with large penalties to chill speech. The intent is clear though, to eradicate LGBTQ people from public life,” Craballo wrote.

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Equality Florida’s Senior Policy Advisor Carlos Guillermo Smith called the proposed legislation “an extreme escalation of right-wing extremism in Florida.”

“The bill imposes unprecedented government control over the work of nonprofit organizations disfavored by the DeSantis administration and goes far beyond its proposed regulation of pronouns to aggressively target the rights of transgender government employees to simply exist as themselves. This latest attack is a continuation of DeSantis’s censorship agenda which attempts to erode our basic democratic freedoms in order to appeal to a far-right base,” Smith added.

By introducing the bill, Chamberlin continues a chain begun by his predecessor in District 24, Rep. Joe Harding. Harding, who sponsored the state’s original “Don’t Say Gay” bill, resigned from office in 2022 after being indicted on charges related to Covid business relief fraud and money laundering. Harding ultimately accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to four months in prison.

Chamberlin, who replaced Harding via a special election held earlier this year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone. 

This article was updated to include additional comment from Florida United.

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