New Beginnings: A Message to Florida Families

As the Florida State Senate considers an expansion of their infamous “Don’t Say Gay and Trans” bill, our Chief Policy Officer — and former Floridian and Florida attorney — Shelbi Day reflects on where we’ve been and where we’re headed. 

I got my start in Florida

Amid palm trees and sunny skies, I found new beginnings: Studying law at the University of Florida and creating a chosen family and lifelong friendships that shape who I am today. Although I currently live in the Midwest, for much of my adult life, Florida was home. I studied law, became a licensed attorney, and then fought for LGBTQ+ rights in Florida, slowly inching the needle of progress closer to full lived and legal equality for LGBTQ+ Floridians. So, when I watched as Florida passed its now infamous “Don’t Say Gay and Trans” bill, I literally sat at my desk and cried — for the progress we lost and for the members of my chosen family, close friends, and colleagues who would have to shoulder the burden of this dangerous legislation. 

Only the beginning

I had no idea then that “Don’t Say Gay and Trans” was just the beginning. Since that fateful day a year ago, Florida has ramped up its slate of hate, attempting to restrict access to life-saving health care, ban trans youth from athletics, limit the teaching of LGBTQ+ and Black history in the classroom, repeal gun safety laws, and attack immigrant communities. This week, the Florida Senate is considering a bill that would expand “Don’t Say Gay and Trans” even further. 

I’ve heard from my friends who are trans and worried about access to everyday necessities, like using the restroom. I’ve heard from my friends who are parents and have watched their children get treated differently in the classroom. My call history alone is evidence that this legislation directly and concretely impacts LGBTQ+ people, people of color, and allies alike. It’s shaping the culture of this state into something unrecognizable to me, as a former Floridian, and to my close friends and the members of my chosen family who were born and raised there. 

We are not without hope

To all those living in Florida now, I’ll tell you what I tell the friends who reach out to me, scared and unsure of what the future holds amid this slate of hate: We are not without hope. There are so many good, smart lawyers on the frontlines fighting these laws and discriminatory actions in the courts. Strong leaders are on the ground fighting these bills, and organizations like Family Equality are standing firm in supporting them. And your voice has very real power to change the tide. 

This is not just a talking point or a superficial call to action. I’ve worked for two decades on civil rights—the first decade in Florida—so I know just how impactful it is when we rise up to say that we unequivocally reject this slate of hate in our state.

You have power—use it

Call your lawmakers and hold them accountable for their actions. Support organizations fighting on the frontlines of these battles, including Equality Florida, the ACLU of Florida, and the Southern Legal Counsel. Vote at the ballot box. 

I know what Floridians are capable of. You’re strong. Resilient. Determined. Joyful. You have power—use it. Because this does not have to be the end of the Florida we’ve all come to know. 

In fact, it can be the beginning of something new.

P.S. Want to get more involved? Our partners at Equality Florida are mobilizing weekly, in-person and virtually, to fight back against the overwhelming anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being introduced in their state. Join them via their Pride at the Capitol Campaign today, and be sure to sign up for their newsletters and follow them on social media to keep up to date with the latest ways you can take action. 

Floridians, take action!

From book bans to healthcare bans, we need to take action!

Contact your lawmakers today to show them that Floridians WILL NOT ACCEPT this slate of hate in their state. Then, set a reminder to take action again tomorrow, and the day after that—and encourage your friends to do the same. 

Shelbi Day

Chief Policy Officer

Shelbi Day joined Family Equality in October 2016 as Senior Policy Counsel and now works as the Chief Policy Officer in our Policy Department. In this position, Day leads Family Equality’s policy work throughout the United States and manages the organization’s amicus curiae (“voices”) briefs that highlight the real-life harm and impact on LGBTQ parents and their children through the use of their voices and stories. She also assists in public education efforts by leveraging the stories of LGBTQ families and by facilitating workshops and creating written resources. Most of Day’s career has been in civil rights litigation focusing on LGBTQ issues, though she worked briefly in private practice at the boutique law firm of Bouneff, Chally & Koh in Portland, Oregon, practicing in the areas of adoption, surrogacy, and assisted reproductive technology. Day was a staff attorney in the Western Regional Office of Lambda Legal, where she was a member of the legal team in Sevcik v. Sandoval, a successful challenge of Nevada’s law prohibiting gay people from marrying, and the ACLU of Florida where she was on the legal team for the case that ultimately rendered unconstitutional Florida’s ban on gay people adopting. Day has also worked as a staff attorney at National Center for Lesbian Rights and Southern Legal Counsel, Inc. Day graduated with high honors from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and has a master’s degree in Latin American Studies. She served as a law clerk for the Hon. Charles R. Wilson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She lives with her family in Madison, Wisconsin.