State Sen. Shevrin Jones can often be seen at the Florida Capitol greeting staff and colleagues with a smile or laugh, but when he’s alone it’s a different story. For Jones, who is gay, the past two years have been emotionally draining as Florida passed a flurry of anti-LGBTQ legislation.

More than 200 LGBTQ lawmakers across the country feel just like Jones. The issue exploded into the national spotlight last week when Montana Republicans voted to bar Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who is transgender, from the House floor after a standoff over gender-affirming medical care for minors.

For Florida Sen. Jones — the first Black gay lawmaker in the state — repeatedly hearing “I love you, but” from people he socializes with and works alongside is depressing, especially when an anti-LGBTQ+ message carries religious undertones.

Rayner-Goolsby is a lawyer currently in a Master of Divinity program who was raised with a strong religious background. She’s also the first Black lesbian lawmaker in the statehouse to be out. She feels just like Sen. Jones and says, “I’m literally trying to exist. The harsh things we’re saying are in defense of our life. The harsh things that they’re saying are to prop up a governor’s political ambition, and their desire and quest for power.”