As of April 12, Equality Florida, based in St. Petersburg, made the decision to issue a travel advisory for the state, warning of the risks posed to those considering short or long term travel, or relocation to the state. 

The move comes in response to a wave of safety inquiries Equality Florida has received following the passage of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community, including restricted access to reproductive health care, repeal of gun safety laws, fomenting racial prejudice, and attacking public education by banning books and censoring curriculum. 

“As an organization that has spent decades working to improve Florida’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live work and visit, it is with great sadness that we must respond to those asking if it is safe to travel to Florida or remain in the state as the laws strip away basic rights and freedoms,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director. 

“While losing conferences, and top students who have written off Florida threats [as] lasting damage to our state, it is most heartbreaking to hear from parents who are selling their homes and moving because school censorship, book bans and health care restrictions have made their home state less safe for their children. We understand everyone must weigh the risks and decide what is best for their safety, but whether you stay away, leave or remain we ask that you join us in countering these relentless attacks.  Help reimagine and build a Florida that is truly safe for and open to all, and where freedom is a reality, not a hollow campaign slogan.”

Governor Ron DeSantis, who has made the extremist policies the centerpiece of his presidential campaign strategy, has weaponized state agencies to silence critics and impose sanctions on large and small companies that dissent with his culture war agenda or disagree with his attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Already, the adopted and proposed policies detailed in the travel advisory have led Florida parents to consider relocating, prospective students to cross Florida colleges and universities off their lists, events and conferences to cancel future gatherings, and the United States military to offer redeployment for service members whose families are now unsafe in the state. 

Businesses have spoken out against the governor’s abuse of state power to punish dissent, with Disney CEO Bob Iger calling DeSantis “anti-business and anti-Florida.” 

The worsening attacks, especially those targeting transgender youth, have also led to the proposal of policies around the country to provide refuge for those fleeing states like Florida.

 The Florida Immigrant Coalition, a statewide immigrant rights coalition of 65 member organizations and over 100 allies, also issued a travel advisory, urging reconsideration of travel to Florida and providing critical information about where immigrant travelers can learn more about their constitutional rights. 

During previous weeks, Florida chapters of the NAACP voted unanimously to request similar warnings to the Black community about the risk of traveling or relocating to the state.

While the political and cultural schism between Florida and a large portion of the United States can be traced back as far as the turn of the 21st century and the Supreme Court’s decision to stymie a recount of the state’s votes, which likely would have handed Al Gore the presidency, the influence of right wing conservatives flocking to the state in the past few years has led to the political environment that currently exists there today.

In a state with large LGBTQ populations based in cities like Orlando, St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida was once hailed as a positive travel destination for vacationing queers.

As early as the mid-1990s, the city of Miami funded LGBTQ press junkets for journalists to cover the area’s welcoming culture.

For now, those days appear to be long gone. Not only has the DeSantis administration taken aim at the trans community, it has also canceled funding for mental health programming to support survivors of the Pulse massacre, funding specifically designated to provide housing for homeless LGBTQ youth and funds earmarked for Orlando’s LGBTQ community center.

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