LGBTQ Protesters Confront Rep. Basabe Toe-to-Toe in North Bay Village

Protester Aaron Bos-Lun points at Rep. Fabian Basabe at an April 14, 2023, gathering to oppose Basabe's votes on LGBTQ bills.
Protester Aaron Bos-Lun points at Rep. Fabian Basabe at an April 14, 2023, gathering to oppose Basabe's votes on LGBTQ bills. Photo by Naomi Feinstein
After returning from a legislative session in Tallahassee, state representative Fabián Basabe unexpectedly popped up at a Miami Beach-area protest where advocates demanded his resignation, holding up signs calling him a "DeSantis Nazi" and claiming he "betrayed LGBTQ Floridians."

Outside Basabe's office in North Bay Village, a handful of speakers accused him of backtracking on 2022 campaign promises by voting in favor of the "Don't Say Gay" expansion bill and failing to enter a vote on the state's six-week abortion ban.

When the April 14 protest kicked off, Basabe was upstairs in his office. He came down and tried to mingle with the crowd as Miami Beach resident Aaron Bos-Lun, the youth organizing director from progressive group Men4Choice, spoke out against him. The protesters soon realized Basabe was among them and started chanting, "Shame, shame, shame!"

At one point, Basabe called the protesters "paid activists who don't care to hear what's going on that actually affects their lives."

He told New Times yesterday evening that he is being targeted by "advocacy groups whose sole existence relies on the funding they can raise with the controversy they continue to promote."

Last November, the former reality TV star eked out a victory over Democrat Jordan Leonard by less than 250 votes to secure a seat representing Florida House of Representatives District 106. Running as a moderate Republican, he won over Miami Beach voters in part by pledging to support gay rights and the LGBTQ community.

His critics say his voting record in the pending legislative session show he's kowtowing to Gov. Ron DeSantis' culture war-agenda that marginalizes LGBTQ residents. Many of his detractors were irate this week after he suggested that he was planning to attend Miami Beach Pride festival this weekend after his round of controversial statehouse votes.

Among the protest attendees was Kristen Browde, vice president of the Florida Democratic LGBTQ+ Caucus, who said that "Miami Beach and the rest of Florida can't live with more Fabian Basabe... with more betrayal."

"Fiscal conservative, social moderate — nonsense. This is a man who has done everything but represent the community that sent him there. And this community has one message for him: Had your chance. It's over," Browde said before the crowd.

Among other controversial bills, Basabe voted in favor of HB 1069, which would expand Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" law by prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from prekindergarten through eighth grade. The bill would also bar public school employees from asking kindergarten through 12th grade students their preferred personal pronouns (e.g. "he," "she," or "they"), among other restrictions.

This week, while serving on a Florida House subcommittee, Basabe voted in favor of HB 1423, which would prohibit children from attending adult live performances with risque content and institute criminal penalties if children are present, even in the company of an adult. Although the bill does not specifically mention drag shows or pride festivals, advocates say it's clearly aimed at the LGBTQ community and will empower over-policing of drag shows and other LGBTQ-centered events.

At the protest, Browde confronted Basabe face to face, saying, "We saw you vote. When you vote to harm our community, we are coming to get you," to which he responded, "You don't know the work that I have done."

Basabe declared, "You are all seen. You are loved. You are all terribly misinformed."

He offered to meet with anyone "who was his actual constituent" in his office as the chants continued.

Speaking at the protest, attorney and Miami Beach resident Melba Pearson reflected on how, when she dropped off her mail-in ballot at city hall last year, Basabe assured her he would introduce a bipartisan bill on the first day of the legislative session that protects abortion rights.

Pearson said she "watched and waited" in vain for Basabe to follow through on his election promise.

Basabe, who was wearing sunglasses and a blue sport-coat, was eventually escorted away by police back into the building. After fielding questions from reporters for about 20 minutes, he returned outside to see if there would be anyone willing to have a conversation.

By then, a majority of the protesters had already left.
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Naomi Feinstein is a staff writer at Miami New Times. She was born-and-raised in South Florida and is a graduate of the University of Miami where she majored in journalism and political science. While at UM, Naomi worked for the student-run newspaper The Miami Hurricane and was named the 2021 Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Florida's College Journalist of the Year. She later received her master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Contact: Naomi Feinstein

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