LGBTQ Activist Forcibly Removed From House Committee Hearing

His microphone was silenced. A moment later, two burly goons were grabbing him by each arm and forcibly removing him from the proceedings.

His crime? Speaking out against a bill to allow teens and students to own guns, including assault rifles.

Maxx Fenning was speaking before a House Committee in Tallahassee. Members were considering a bill (HB 1223) to allow 18-year-olds to own guns, including assault rifles. In the middle of his comments, he was silenced.

“It was absolutely insane to be dragged out of a room like that,” Fenning told OutSFL. “I could tell when they cut my mic, so I yelled ‘If you’re killing kids, you’re gonna listen!’”

Fenning, who is a seasoned activist at only 21-years-old, and is the founder of LGBTQ youth organization PRISM, was describing watching the Parkland massacre play out on social media while at his own high school, Boca Raton Community.

“I watched kids like me on social media while gunshots rained in the background, and heard the thuds of bodies like mine hit the floor,” he said during his house speech.

After about a minute and 45 seconds, Committee Vice-Chair Tobin Overdorf tersely “thanked” Fenning, implying he should stop talking. Fenning says he and other speakers were never given time limits, and he was never given a “30-second warning” that his time was up.

For comparison, Wilton Manors City Commission rules allow members of the public to speak for up to three minutes, and they are told of this before they begin.

“I’ve testified and spoken at so many [hearings] ... as much as I am gung-ho activist, loud, so I know my bounds,” Fenning said.

Fenning says the intersection of gun violence and LGBTQ youth is clear and obvious.

“Queer people and people of color are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Think back to Pulse Nightclub. We’re seeing an onslaught of LGBTQ+ bills across the country, and we’ve also seen a spike in hate crimes.”

The bill moved out of committee with a 15-6 with two members not voting.

This is the same Republican-dominated chamber that wants to prevent kids under 16-years-old from having any social media accounts, even if parents approve. That bill would also disproportionately affect LGBTQ youth. Many live in homes and communities where it’s hard to reach other LGBTQ youth.

As for Fenning, he will keep fighting in South Florida. He will keep fighting online. He will keep fighting in Tallahassee, whether they want to listen to him or not.

“That is definitely the first time something like that has happened to me.”



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