JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There was outrage on Tuesday from advocates of the LGBTQ community after a Florida lawmaker compared transgender people to “demons”, “mutants” and “imps.”
“We have people that live among us today on planet Earth that are happy to display themselves as if they were mutants from another planet. This is the planet Earth with God-created men, male, and women, female,” Florida State Rep. Webster Barnaby said.
He directed those insults during a Florida House Commerce Committee hearing on a controversial house bill regarding restroom use.
Local advocates said his comments are part of what they consider to be a state-sponsored hate campaign targeting the LGBTQ community. They said even though Barnaby did apologize, members of the LGBTQ community News4JAX spoke with said they can’t forgive him.
″The Lord rebuke you, Satan, and all of your demons and all of your imps who come parade before us. That’s right, I called you demons and imps who come and parade before us and pretend that you are part of this world,” Barnaby said.
Barnaby spoke directly to members of the LGBTQ community who were in a committee meeting arguing against House Bill 1521, which would prevent transgender men and women from using a restroom that doesn’t match their biological sex.
Barnaby voted yes on the bill and claimed that children are being sexually assaulted in bathrooms and proudly stated that he’s not afraid to address the “dysphoria and dysfunction.”
“Some people don’t like that, but that’s a fact,” Barnaby said. “I am sick and tired of this, I’m not going to put up with it. You can try to test me and take me on, and I promise I will win every time.”
Cindy Nobles, who advocates for the LGBTQ community through her Jacksonville organization PFLAG, said Barnaby’s comments were the most hateful she’s ever heard from a Florida lawmaker.
She takes issue with all the recent legislation targeting the LGBTQ community and also blamed Gov. Ron DeSantis for the ongoing culture wars.
“We are living in a time of state-sponsored, state-mandated hatred. And we’re seeing this through everything to the book bans, the bathroom bill that prompted Mr. Barnaby to say what he said,” Nobles said. “The hatred towards the LGBTQ community is starting here because of the bills that are going through our house at the moment. But it’s spreading like a cancer to the rest of the country. We need to stop it here before it’s too late.”
News4JAX also spoke with Camille Lewis who works with the McKenzie Project, which supports transgender people. Lewis said even though Barnaby apologized, the damage has already been done.
“Too late. Because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speak. You felt that in your heart. You’ve been waiting for a microphone, a camera and a moment to say that. So you said how you feel, we know how you feel,” Lewis said.
Rep. Barnaby also caught the attention of the Volusia County Sheriff who condemned his statements on Twitter.
“While we have Neo Nazis and other hate groups invading our area and targeting people for their faith, their ethnicity and their sexuality, our own state representative wants to put another target on their backs,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
News4JAX reached out to Barnaby’s office for further comment but has not heard back.