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Florida travel warnings intensify as state lawmakers strike back

Each of these organizations have either issued travel or relocation warnings for the state amid its shift to increasingly harsh policies.
 
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media during a press conference at Christopher Columbus High School on Monday, March 27, 2023, in Miami, Fla. A growing chorus of leading civil rights groups are issuing travel warnings about visiting Florida amid Gov. Ron DeSantis’ increasingly hostile laws toward women, minorities, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media during a press conference at Christopher Columbus High School on Monday, March 27, 2023, in Miami, Fla. A growing chorus of leading civil rights groups are issuing travel warnings about visiting Florida amid Gov. Ron DeSantis’ increasingly hostile laws toward women, minorities, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. [ MATIAS J. OCNER | Miami Herald ]
Published May 25, 2023

A growing chorus of leading civil rights groups are issuing travel warnings about visiting Florida amid Gov. Ron DeSantis’ increasingly hostile laws toward women, minorities, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

On Tuesday, The Human Rights Campaign, which is the country’s largest LGBTQ organization, issued an updated travel advisory designed to highlight laws passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature in what the organization called the “most anti-LGBTQ legislative session in history.”

In total, six anti-LGBTQ bills have recently been passed in Florida and nearly all signed by DeSantis. The organization, however, stopped short of calling for an all-out ban on travel to the state or a boycott. Instead, the move is designed to shine a light on the state’s growing extremist policies.

“The travel advisory outlines the devastating impacts of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, restrict access to reproductive health care, repeal gun safety policies, foment racial prejudice, and attack public education by banning books and censoring curriculum in order that prospective travelers or residents can make the best decisions for themselves and their families,” the organization said in a statement.

This latest announcement comes on the heels of similar statements from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Florida Immigration Coalition and Equality Florida. Each of these organizations have either issued travel or relocation warnings for the state amid its shift to increasingly harsh policies.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said her organization stands in solidarity with the other civil rights groups.

“Because of Ron DeSantis and his frenzied appeal to extremists, LGBTQ+ people in Florida are finding themselves in a state of emergency every single day. Since the day he took office, Governor DeSantis has weaponized his position to weave bigotry, hate, and discrimination into public law for his own political gain. We see it as our duty to join Equality Florida—and LULAC and the NAACP—to provide guidance to our community,” said Robinson.

On Saturday, the NAACP issued a travel advisory and said that the state of Florida has become too hostile to black travelers under DeSantis. In particular, the group noted the state’s efforts to “erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”

“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said. “He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”

Johnson later expanded upon his comments during an interview with CBS News.

“(DeSantis is) using his platform as governor to try to promote ‘otherism,’ or racial hate and division,” Johnson continued. “That should not be the case. And America needs to understand as he prepares to run for the presidency, we cannot stand as a nation another individual occupying the White House with this type of belief system.”

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said Tuesday, meanwhile, that the DeSantis administration has passed some of the strongest anti-immigration laws ever in the state of Florida.

“There’s no question that SB 1718 is the framework for a man who’s bent on getting to the Oval Office over anybody’s back and well-being. It’s sad to see that a man with his potential is stooping to something so low to get to the White House,” David Cruz, spokesman for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said according to News 4 JAX.

LULAC said its travel warning comes in direct response to SB 1718, adding hat Florida’s anti-immigration laws are creating fear in the state of Florida.

The organization previously issued a similar warning for the state of Arizona, which it says caused that state to lose more than $141 million during the initial four months the warning was in place.

The spate of warnings follows an onslaught of policies in Florida that target specific groups of individuals. The policies have included DeSantis’ move to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades and an expansion of the law that has been dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” The state has also rolled back reproductive rights decades under DeSantis, passing a bill to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, when many women do not even yet know they are pregnant.

And at a time when deadly shootings are taking place in this country on a daily and weekly basis, Florida has passed a measure that allows state residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

In a move not unexpected given the state’s hostile laws, various lawmakers in Florida are mocking or ridiculing the warnings by civil rights organizations or striking back in ways that only further undermine the role of elected officials — who are elected to lead rather than engage in antics — further polarizing and alienating Americans.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, for instance, issued his own travel advisory Tuesday addressed to what he called “socialists” visiting the state of Florida.

“Travelers should be aware that attempts to spread Socialism in north Florida will fail and be met with laughter and mockery,” Scott tweeted.