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Why I Still Have Hope After These Anti-LGBTQIA+ Laws Were Signed

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Last week, my partner had surgery.

A nurse led me in to see her when she was in recovery. “Look who’s here!” the nurse crowed.

Head rolling on the pillow, eyelids heavy from anesthesia, her eyes found my face. Her mouth made a happy little “o” and her eyes widened.

“I lub (love) you,” she slurred. The first thing she said when she woke, when she saw me, was “I love you.”

I love her, too. So much.

On the drive home, when she was once again lucid, she told me she’d been scared about the procedure. She has medical anxiety, so this wasn’t surprising to hear. What was surprising was when she continued that thought. She was scared of more than the procedure, but of the health care providers themselves because we’re a same-sex couple.

Oh, and we live in Florida.

She’s always been better at keeping up with the news than I have, so I didn’t understand.

Ron DeSantis, Florida governor and 2024 presidential candidate hopeful, signed Senate Bill 1580 into law this May. Also known as “Protections of Medical Conscience,” this law allows health care providers and insurers to deny care on the basis of “moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”

The legislation states that it cannot be used to deny coverage based on a person’s “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” It does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender orientation. In fact, discrimination against queer – and especially trans – people is the law’s unstated, but clear, goal.

SB 1580 comes as part of the most extensive set of anti-lgbtq+ legislation in Florida’s history. Other recently signed bills include:

  • SB 254 restricts gender-affirming care for trans children and adults.
  • SB 1458 restricts people under the age of 18 from attending “adult live performances,” namely, drag shows.
  • HB 1521 requires people to use bathrooms consistent with their sex assigned at birth.
  • HB 1557 also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibits instruction of LGBTQ+ identities and history in K-12th grades, and prohibits teachers from using a student’s correct pronouns if they do not align with the student’s sex at birth.

I hate Florida.

And still, I love Florida. I bask like a lizard in the sun and get excited by every afternoon storm. I live here. I work here.

I love here.

Florida is where my partner and I started dating. It’s where we met up again after being separated following our graduation from a North Carolina university.

It’s where we had our first date, at a Mexican restaurant where a man walked between tables selling balloon animals. She bought me a balloon dolphin.

It’s where we celebrated our first anniversary. We spent a day at the beach, and came away with beautiful memories and raging sunburns.

It’s where we sit on the porch and eat dinner together. Where I ask questions upon questions and she humors me by Googling the answers. Where she tells me the plots of shows and movies I have no interest in watching.

I love her, and I love here, but I can’t love her here.

In looking into this legislation myself, I’ve learned the dreaded “Protections of Medical Conscience” law doesn’t go into effect until July 1st.

I don’t think this is the reason her health care providers treated us the way they did, though.

They treated us with respect and human decency, the exact same way I imagine they treat patients in heterosexual relationships. And I think those health care providers would have treated us this way, even if her appointment had been on July 2nd.

When my partner asked a nurse if I could sit with her in pre-op, the nurse told her that of course, she would go get me and bring me down. She said she would bring me so I could wait with my partner and give her a kiss goodbye when they came to take her back. And I did just that. In a hospital in Florida, I kissed my girlfriend before she was brought into surgery.

Even though I know things will get worse before they get better, and even though I am appalled by my state government, I have hope.

I have hope that human decency will win, eventually. And until that day, I’ll hold hope and righteous anger in one hand, and my girlfriend’s hand in the other.

Getty image by PeopleImages

Originally published: June 2, 2023
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