TALLAHASSEE (Fla.) (AP). State Sen. Shevrin is often seen greeting colleagues and staff at the Florida Capitol with a laugh or smile, but he can be seen in a completely different light when he is alone.
The outward expression of God's love is the best way to express it. Jones, a Democrat, said, 'That's what I learned.' He said, "I have enough tears to fill a whole lake in my car."
Jones, a gay man, has been emotionally drained by the past two Florida legislative waves that have targeted LGBT+.
Over 200 LGBTQ+ legislators across the nation feel like Jones at a moment when anti-gay, anti-transgender laws are flourishing. They feel as if their communities' rights to exist are being attacked and they must defend them. Last week, the issue was brought to the forefront of the nation when Montana Republicans voted against allowing Democratic Rep. Zooey Zéphyr who is transgender from speaking on the House floor. This came after a dispute over gender affirming medical care.
Texas, Missouri, and Tennessee are home to more than 125 of these bills. Florida is only responsible for ten.
Florida Governor Rick Scott is preparing for a possible campaign for the presidency. Ron DeSantis has gained national attention after signing and proposing a law to ban discussion in schools about sexual orientation and gender identities. Opponents have dubbed this 'Don't Say Gay' (don't say gay) legislation. DeSantis, and other GOP leaders, have increasingly entered the culture wars as a part of their toolkit. However, emotions are rising on both sides.
Michele Rayner Goolsby, Florida Rep. said: 'I have a policy that I will not cry in Tallahassee.' "I will cry at home."
Rayner-Goolsby, a lawyer in a Master of Divinity programme who was raised religiously, is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity. She is also the first Black, lesbian state legislator to come out.
She said, "I'm trying to survive." "The harsh words we say are to defend our lives. They say harsh things to support a governor's ambition and desire for power.
Some LGBTQ+ members with deep faith have been pitted against GOPers who say that God does not make mistakes and there are only 2 genders. Some LGBTQ+ members have children and they've been treated with derision.
Three bills in Texas would consider providing gender affirming care to minors a form child abuse.
Other conservative states followed Florida's lead with bills restricting trans people's rights to gender affirming care, bathrooms that match their gender, and LGBTQ+ textbooks, as well the ability to socially and physically transition in school.
It puts pressure on LGBTQ+ legislators who face opposition, misunderstanding and even hatred among their Republican counterparts.
North Dakota Sen. Ryan Braunberger (a Democrat from Fargo) said that it is 'frustrating and maddening' for a gay legislator to serve in a Legislature with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being debated, and where most of his colleagues vote to pass these bills.
Braunberger said a colleague was trying to make it illegal to host drag shows at home. He was on a committee during this session.
He said, 'They are trying to eradicate members of the LGBTQ+ communities from existence'. It's what extremists are pushing for... It is a small, but influential part of the Legislature. "I fear it will grow if we do not stand up to it."
According to Out For America, while LGBTQ+ legislators only make up a small percentage of state legislatures, they are on the rise.
The debate in the statehouse about LGBTQ+ issues has descended into personal attacks, which is contrary to traditional practices that maintain decorum and respect among colleagues.
Webster Barnaby, a Republican Representative from Florida, called transgender people "demons," "mutants," and "imps" during a recent Florida committee debate. Last year in Kansas, Republican Rep. Cheryl Helmer was in the news for saying that she did not want to share a restroom with a transgender co-worker.
The targetted colleague, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Byers, was the only transgender legislator in the state and decided to not run for re-election last year.
A Republican colleague grabbed Byers aside after she testified against a Bill that would have banned transgender athletes in girls' and women’s sports. He expressed regret for Byers having to listen to the bill supporters.
He voted for the bill.
Byers reported that the next day the Kansas "queer caucus' member told another member he could not look in the mirror.
Byers stated that 'it's the exact same thing for every LGBTQ+ lawmaker, no matter which state they represent'. You don't trust anything. Are they being honest when they say "I love you, I like you and I'm happy you're here"? Is it honest to berate LGBTQ+ people at the well?
It is very depressing for Florida Senator Jones, the first Black Gay lawmaker in Florida, to hear people say, "I love you but" over and over again. This is especially true when the message has religious undertones. He came out and won his seat in 2018, despite being told he would not win reelection.
He said that despite the difficulties, he was determined to fight hatred with love.
'I believe that God loves you more than ever. I pray more and more. Jones, who is a Republican legislator, said: 'I hate the way they treat people. 'I don't like what they do to the transgender population, and I dislike what they do to immigrants. I hate everything. It is not my responsibility to hate them. It's not my job to hate them.