Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has slammed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for refusing to cooperate with him on the state’s transportation needs and projects, while pursuing anti-LGBTQ+ policies that harm the community and the economy.
Buttigieg, who is the first openly gay cabinet member in U.S. history, told Time magazine that he has been trying to reach DeSantis, a conservative Republican, to talk about the Brightline rail line that would connect Miami and Tampa with a station in Orlando, near Disney World. The project could benefit from federal transportation dollars as it has been diverted to go to the Orange County Convention Center.
However, DeSantis has not returned his calls or shown any interest in working with him. Instead, DeSantis has been busy with culture war issues, such as banning LGBTQ+ books and health care for trans people, and fighting with Disney over its support for LGBTQ+ rights.
“He’s more worried about Bud Light or Disney or whatever,” Buttigieg said, referring to DeSantis’s obsession with culture war issues.
Buttigieg criticized DeSantis for wasting time and energy on these harmful policies and warned that LGBTQ+ rights are not safe under the current Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
“The situation of an upper-middle-class, married white gay dude is not the same as a trans kid in Texas, or any number of LGBTQ people of color trying to survive right now,” Buttigieg said. “They see political value in this. I see not only distraction, but a very real harm that’s being done. And that’s gonna persist until they figure out that it is not rewarding politically for them.”
Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, a LGBTQ+ advocate, also condemned DeSantis for his anti-LGBTQ+ stance and tweeted: “This will kill kids … You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ+ kids to survive in.”
DeSantis’s hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community is not limited to his personal feud with Buttigieg. A Republican-led committee in the Florida state house has advanced a bill that would ban all discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools, a move that advocates say will “erase” LGBTQ+ students and history. The bill is also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“This bill is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent,” said Joe Harding, a Republican state representative who introduced the bill. “That job can only be given to you by above.”
Buttigieg said he will continue to work with the Florida Department of Transportation to get things done, despite DeSantis’s lack of cooperation.
“We try to work around and through all that to just get stuff done,” he said. “A huge amount of energy and effort is being wasted in these dumb fights. And that’s really unfortunate. It’s policy waste in order to achieve political benefit or perceived political benefit.”
– Pete Buttigieg Can’t Reach Ron DeSantis to Talk Florida Transportation Projects: Report, The Advocate, June 14 2023
– Ron DeSantis won’t even talk to Pete Buttigieg about Florida’s transportation projects, LGBTQ Nation, June 14 2023
– Florida: Republican panel advances bill to ban LGBTQ+ discussion in schools, The Guardian, January 24 2022
– Who is Ron DeSantis? Where does he stand on LGBTQ+ rights?, LGBTQ Nation, March 17 2023