DeSantis green-lights Legislature: ‘Stay the course.’ You know what that means... | Opinion

You know that spooky feeling of déjà vu?

When it comes to the super-majority Republican Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis, the sensation is like a warped, scratched record: Don’t Say Gay. Don’t Say Trans. Don’t Say Black.

One week into the legislative session — and the culture war is back!

All DeSantis had to say on opening day Jan. 9, before he lost the Iowa caucuses, was, “stay the course” — and sycophantic lawmakers knew what he meant: more prohibition of diversity.

They swiftly went to work to get rid of another pet peeve bothering their bigoted souls, pushing through a committee a statewide ban of the most prominent gay and Black symbols in all government buildings.

Seeing those happy, rainbow-colored Pride and poignant black-and-white Black Lives Matter flags really upset thin-skinned Republicans.

HB 901 prohibits flags with “racial, sexual orientation and gender, or political ideology viewpoint” from flying in any state or local government building, including public schools and universities.

And so, the Floriduh contingent that has stirred up two years worth of anti-gay and trans hysteria is now poised to dictate what content can sway in the wind in public spaces.

Petty Republicans don’t care about how far they go to dehumanize and devalue gay children and youth, and the LGBTQ+ vote apparently doesn’t matter to them. It’s also no longer unusual to find another Hispanic, voted into office by identity politics in purple multicultural Miami-Dade County, carrying the torch of censorship in partnership with the good old boy North Florida crew.

READ MORE: Florida GOP lawmakers seek to ban rainbow flags in schools, saying they’re bad for students

Cities most affected

The new intrusive power they seek is far-reaching, and most likely, unconstitutional.

Even the wearing of a Pride or BLM pin by a teacher or a local and state public employee would become illegal in the broad bill sponsored by self-described Christian Rep. David Borrero, a former city commissioner in Miami-Dade’s Sweetwater, home to less than 20,000 people.


His city would likely be affected very little by the legislation but cities like Broward’s Wilton Manors, proud of being the “Second-Gayest City” in the United States, would be afflicted. Borrero’s legislation is an attack on residents’ right to representation and self-expression in public spaces. The same goes for Key West, Miami Beach, the Tampa-St. Pete-Sarasota areas and many other cities and counties all over the state touted by Visit Florida as best gay-travel destinations.

Borrero couldn’t be reached for comment.

For the state’s beleaguered public schools and universities, Borrero’s bill, co-sponsored with Rep. Randy Fine of Brevard County, is another blow to inclusiveness.

In committee, Fine shamelessly used the Israel-Hamas war to justify discriminating against a Black social justice cause by claiming that, without this bill becoming law, anyone could fly the Hamas flag in official spaces.

By outlawing the BLM flag, Republicans make Florida Blacks again a target of censure. As they’ve done with voting rights, diversity studies and legislation that turned unruly demonstrators into accused felons, Republicans are attempting to silence activists protesting police brutality.

It’s no accident that when Fine defended the bill before the House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee, he used Hamas in one sentence, immediately followed by a Black Lives Matter reference in the other.

It’s called demonizing by association — a crude attempt to stifle free speech.

How can citizens visually make stances seen and heard on Capital grounds or city and county commissions — the revered all-American act of protesting already restricted — if they can’t display a movement’s symbols?

READ MORE: The better off in Florida are homophobic, racist adults, Gov. DeSantis, not kids | Opinion

Quashing Dem speech

While most of the attention has focused on how the bill would impact schools — where LGBTQ discussions, reading, and celebrations are already banned — HB 901 goes beyond curtailing student and teacher action.

The real intent is to quash Democrats’ support for LGBTQ+ rights.

If the bill passed, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, for example, may not be able to legally wear her Pride flag pin in the office.

In fact, the bill is a frontal attack on Levine Cava’s June Pride Month celebration last year in the wake of the Legislature passing anti-gay and transgender legislation, regulating everything from bathroom to pronoun use.

The LGBTQ Pride flag flew outside of the county’s Stephen P. Clark Center and the lobby featured a display of discrimination and persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity in foreign countries. It was staged by the Miami-Dade County LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board.

“We say gay,” Levine Cava said in a speech. “We say trans.”

Among the Democratic elected officials attending were commission chairman and former Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is openly gay, and Commissioner Eileen Higgins, all eloquent thorns in the side of the Tallahassee right.

If the House and Senate pass Borrero’s bill and DeSantis signs it into law, Pride Month in the county may have to be limited to imagery of taped-shut mouths.

The LGBTQ Pride flag flies outside Miami-Dade County’s Stephen P. Clark Center on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.
The LGBTQ Pride flag flies outside Miami-Dade County’s Stephen P. Clark Center on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

Discrimination justified

As usual, Republicans are using distorted patriotism to defend violating the First Amendment.

Fine said only “the flags that unite us” should be flown. The former gambling industry executive also claimed that people only have First Amendment rights “in their private capacity,” not in government.


Whatever constitution or declaration of independence he’s been reading, it’s not the United States’.

But the highly-flawed bill passed the subcommittee by a 9-5 vote along party lines.

READ MORE: What flags can and can’t be flown at Florida schools? This bill would change the rules

Florida Republicans seem to still be catering to their state leader’s presidential ambitions by generating more culture war headlines, but they would do well to read the frozen tea leaves of Iowa.

Few voters were dying to import Florida turmoil.

As political strategy, anti-Black and anti-gay is floundering.

But, perhaps, the ultimate goal is to bore Floridians into a political déjà vu coma.