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Last year, I joined American Atheists as their State Policy Counsel, and the disastrous 2023 state legislative session has very much been a trial by fire. Most of my day-to-day includes tracking thousands of bills, managing our grassroots secular advocacy teams in various states, and working to advance positive legislation while simultaneously trying to stop negative bills from being passed. 

In the last five months, we have seen an influx of anti-LGBTQ bills—specifically targeting trans folks, legislation requiring school prayer or the posting of the ten commandments in classrooms, and bills outright denying health care based on the religious beliefs of hospitals, insurers, and employers. Most would presume that engaging in this work would leave me numbed to the horrific bills that continue to flood state legislatures, yet the exact opposite is true. 

Working in so many states at once, I’ve seen firsthand the jarring contrast between bills introduced and passed in Colorado and New York, for example, compared to bills introduced and passed in Florida and Oklahoma. Parts of my day were filled with hope, and many others, with despair. 

To illustrate, American Atheists was able to work with legislators in Colorado to help introduce and pass the “Patients’ Right to Know Act.” This bill empowers patients to make informed healthcare decisions by requiring that hospitals share what services they will—or will not—provide to patients before care is rendered. While this was an incredibly exciting time and a thrilling victory, only a few days later I learned that the cruel counterpart of this bill passed in Florida. Unlike Colorado, Florida now allows for hospitals, insurers, and employers to refuse to provide any type of care if they say that doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs

Living in Florida amidst such a turbulent, politically charged time while concurrently working to stop so many of the despicable bills circling the Florida State Capitol carries a unique set of challenges. 

I can’t help but feel conflicted about whether to remain in this state to advocate and fight for the rights of the most vulnerable versus fleeing to protect the health and well-being of myself and my family. Between book bans, permitless carry laws, trans healthcare bans, expansive school vouchers, and now living in a state where a hospital or insurance company may deny health care merely because something about me offends their religious beliefs, it can be overwhelming and disheartening. 

What a bittersweet moment it is to celebrate one state’s victory for their residents while despairing about the losses of mine.

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Brittany Williams

As State Policy Counsel for American Atheists, Brittany Williams is responsible for state legislative advocacy and engaging with local coalitions and organizations. Brittany has an extensive background...