ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The NAACP over the weekend issued a travel advisory for Florida, joining two other civil rights groups in warning potential tourists that recent laws and policies championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”
The NAACP, long an advocate for Black Americans, joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, in issuing travel advisories for the Sunshine State, where tourism is one of the state’s largest job sectors.
The warning approved Saturday by the NAACP’s board of directors tells tourists that, before traveling to Florida, they should understand the state of Florida “devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”
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An email was sent Sunday morning to DeSantis’ office seeking comment. The Republican governor is expected to announce a run for the GOP presidential nomination this week.
Florida is one of the most popular states in the U.S. for tourists, and tourism is one of its biggest industries. More than 137.5 million tourists visited Florida last year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency. Tourism supports 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs, and visitors spent $98.8 billion in Florida in 2019, the last year figures are available.
Several of Florida’s Democratic mayors were quick to say Sunday that their cities welcomed diversity and inclusion.
“EVERYONE is always welcome and will be treated with dignity and respect,” tweeted Mayor Ken Welch of St. Petersburg in a message echoed by the mayor across the bay in Tampa.
“That will never change, regardless of what happens in Tallahassee,” tweeted Mayor Jane Castor of Tampa.
The NAACP’s decision comes after the DeSantis’ administration in January rejected the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course. DeSantis and Republican lawmakers also have pressed forward with measures that ban state colleges from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as critical race theory, and also passed the Stop WOKE Act that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses.
In its warning for Hispanic travelers considering a visit to Florida, LULAC cited a new law that prohibits local governments from providing money to organizations that issue identification cards to people illegally in the country and invalidates out-of-state driver’s licenses held by undocumented immigrants, among other things. The law also requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to include a citizenship question on intake forms, which critics have said is intended to dissuade immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from seeking medical care.
“The actions taken by Governor DeSantis have created a shadow of fear within communities across the state,” said Lydia Medrano, a LULAC vice president for the Southeast region.
Recent efforts to limit discussion on LGBTQ topics in schools, the removal of books with gay characters from school libraries, a recent ban on gender-affirming care for minors, new restrictions on abortion access and a law allowing Floridians to carry concealed guns without a permit contributed to Equality Florida’s warning.
“Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state,” Equality Florida’s advisory said.
From Stonewall to today: 50+ years of modern LGBTQ+ history
From Stonewall to today: 50+ years of modern LGBTQ+ history
1969: Stonewall Riots
1969: Gay Liberation Front forms
1972: Sweden allows people to legally change gender
1972: UK has first Pride parade
1973: Homosexuality is no longer classified as a mental illness
1974: First openly lesbian officials elected
1977: First openly gay man elected
1978: The rainbow flag is created
1981: Norway enacts anti-discrimination laws
1981: Gay men affected with ‘rare cancer’
1982: Wisconsin passes LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination law
1983: BiPOL forms
1986: Bowers v. Hardwick
1986: New York passes anti-discrimination bill
1987: UK opens first HIV/AIDS clinic
1987: Barney Frank comes out as gay
1987: ACT UP
1988: National Coming Out Day starts
1989: Denmark legalizes same-sex unions
1990: First Pride parade in South Africa
1994: ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ enacted
1995: Gay and lesbian workers can get government security clearance
1996: President Bill Clinton signs Defense of Marriage Act
1996: High schooler starts Gay-Straight Alliance
1997: Ellen DeGeneres comes out
2000: Vermont recognizes same-sex unions
2000: Netherlands recognizes same-sex marriage
2003: US legalizes consensual same-sex acts
2004: Massachusetts performs first same-sex marriage
2009: Hate Crimes Prevention Act
2010: Same-sex marriage legal in Iceland
2011: ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repealed
2012: First openly LGBTQ+ senator
2013: Supreme Court recognizes same-sex marriage
2014: Transgender students get federal protection
2014: First transgender person nominated for Emmy
2016: Ban lifted on transgender troops
2017: First openly transgender state legislator elected
2018: ‘Rainbow wave’ in politics
2019: Taiwan passes same-sex marriage
2019: Transgender troops banned from military
2019: Mayor Pete runs for president
2019: Being transgender no longer a ‘disorder’
2020: NYC Pride March canceled by coronavirus
2021: Biden reverses Trump-era ban on transgender people in the military
2021: Gender-affirming care for minors is blocked—then overturned
2021: Switzerland and Japan make strides toward marriage equality
2022: Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in US states
2022: First openly lesbian women elected governor
Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP