Florida Travel Warnings by Activists Are Ill-Advised

Activist groups are on the warpath against Florida.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization; Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have all issued advisories warning against travel to Florida.

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP said. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

The wisdom of their censure?  Nil. It’s likely impact?  Minimal. 

The experiences of San Francisco and California with ill-considered travel bans are instructive.

San Francisco has already repealed its ban on city business with conservative states. The state may soon rescind its travel ban as well.

In 2016, California decided to restrict state employees from traveling to any state that has enacted a law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identify, or gender expression. It also prohibited state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states on a list.

In the beginning, four states (Kansas, Mississippi, N. Carolina, Tennessee) were on the list of states affected by the travel ban. Eventually the list swelled to almost half the states in the union.

California’s misguided feel-good effort at virtue signaling was stimulated by North Carolina acting to ban transgender people from using the bathroom of their gender identity in public buildings. California retaliated by banning state-funded travel to that state and any other state with laws it deemed discriminatory against LGBTQ people.

The travel ban played well with California’s leftists, but as the list of penalized states expanded, the ban grew unwieldy.  

The prohibition meant sports teams at public colleges and universities had to find other ways to pay for road games in some states, university researchers found it difficult to pursue projects that required trips to states on the banned list and  it complicated some of the state’s other policy goals, such as the use of money to pay for people in other states to travel to California for abortions.

In March 2023, state Senate leader Toni Atkins announced legislation that would end the ban and create in its place a program to create inclusive messaging, discourage discrimination, and help members of the LGBTQ+ community feel less isolated.

“While we recognize what the travel ban accomplished when it was passed, we also must address the unintended consequences and diminished utility that has become its legacy,” said John A. Pérez, UC Regent and Speaker Emeritus of the Assembly.

“But while the arguments for repeal are all legitimate, they miss what to me is the single biggest problem with the ban: Imposing a boycott on nearly half the states in the union further divides us as a country. It exacerbates political polarization and creates obstacles to communication with the very people we need to be persuading,” wrote Los Angeles Times columnist, Nicholas Goldberg.

The activist groups issuing advisories warning against travel to Florida are equally misguided.  While there are clearly divided views on some bills passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. DeSantis, accusing the state as a whole of racism and discouraging travel there is divisive, overreaching and undercuts minority-owned businesses in the state.

In a country with 50 states and more than 332 million people, there are bound to be multiple areas of disagreement. Many might say the diversity of opinions, and the willingness to hear and debate them, is one of our country’s strengths. Different viewpoints, after all, serve as a gateway for discovery.

Activists trying to carve up the country into segments with which they agree or disagree are headed down the wrong path.That kind of thinking just encourages people like the unhinged far-right U.S. Representative, Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA.

On Feb. 20, Presidents’ Day, Greene tweeted: “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.”

Thankfully, there is little evidence that travel advisories by activist groups of any stripe have chilled interest in travel to chastised states in the past. Florida reported a record tourism year, with an estimated 137.6 million visitors in 2022 — up nearly 13% from 2021. That trend is likely to continue, despite the activist travel warnings.

As Stacy Ritter, CEO and president of Visit Lauderdale, has said, “…we welcome everyone under the sun.”


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