Florida Representative Webster Barnaby has come under fire for his recent remarks, which have been deemed anti-transgender, anti-education, and anti-free school lunch rhetoric. Speaking at the state capital while discussing Florida House Bill 1521, legislation aimed at regulating restroom use by transgender individuals in public spaces such as schools and restaurants, Barnaby made offensive comparisons between transgender people and "mutants" from comic book movies.
"This is the planet Earth," he said, further accusing those who identify as transgender of putting on a "parade before us." Attorney Alejandra Caraballo points out that this sort of open vitriol is the definition of discrimination—technically unconstitutional—and highlights a recurring issue among some conservative politicians who seem to miss basic moral lessons.
Despite apologizing for using terms like "mutants" during a public comment regarding the “Safety in Private Spaces Act,” Rep. Barnaby's comments were met with widespread backlash. The legislation would require individuals to use restrooms and changing facilities based on their sex assigned at birth rather than their gender identity; it would also impose penalties on students violating these rules and potentially charge adults with second-degree misdemeanors if they fail to comply.
Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Kissimmee) stepped up during the debate to praise transgender activists present for their bravery amidst such discriminatory language. She reminded her fellow legislators that Florida has already considered ten pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation recently—including bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth and public drag performances last year.
Some Republican lawmakers attempted to distance themselves from Barnaby's controversial remarks after several legislators expressed shock over his choice of words during the hearing about House Bill 1521. Critics argue that bills targeting bathroom use are merely tools designed to harass an already vulnerable population: transgender people seeking equal rights.
In light of the outrage sparked by his comments, Rep. Webster Barnaby issued a public apology for calling transgender individuals "demons" and "mutants." Despite this, the Senate is still working on legislation that would make providing gender-affirming care to minors a felony while also blocking state funds from being used for such treatments in adults.
Democratic Representative Kristen Arrington praised those who testified before the panel and expressed her support for their cause. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Chase Tramont, who sponsored House Bill 1521, made an effort to separate himself from Barnaby's inflammatory rhetoric as he faced mounting criticism.