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Florida GOP legislator apologizes after calling transgender people 'mutants' and 'demons'

State Rep. Webster Barnaby made the remarks at a hearing to discuss legislation known as the Safety in Private Spaces Act.
Representative Webster Barnaby, Dist. 29 during Volusia County Legislative Delegation meeting in DeLand, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.

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State Rep. Webster Barnaby at the Volusia County legislative delegation meeting in DeLand on Jan. 9.Nigel Cook / News-Journal/USA TODAY file

A Republican state legislator in Florida apologized Monday after he called transgender people "demons" and "mutants" at a legislative hearing.

State Rep. Webster Barnaby had lashed out at transgender people earlier in the day at a Commerce Committee hearing on the Safety in Private Spaces Act, a bill that would criminalize using restrooms that match people's gender identities when the restrooms don’t match their “biological sex.”

Barnaby, who referred to himself as a conservative Christian, staunchly defended the bill, saying he was "not on the fence" about what it would do.

"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," he said.

"That’s right, I called you demons and imps who come and parade before us and pretend that you are part of this world," he added.

Barnaby later offered an apology.

“I would like to apologize to the trans community for referring to you as demons,” he said.

Barnaby, who was first elected to the Florida House in 2020, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

In recent years, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s GOP-dominated Legislature have enacted laws that ban classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in primary schools, with related measures under consideration during the current legislative session.

Florida last month joined more than a half-dozen other states in restricting transition-related medical care for minors. The Florida Board of Medicine enacted a rule that bars minors from starting puberty blockers or hormone therapy, sparking backlash from parents of transgender youths in the state.