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Dear ASGW Membership and Conference Attendees, 

After careful deliberation, the ASGW governing board has made the decision to cancel the 2024 Conference scheduled for February 7-14 in Atlantic Beach, Florida. This decision was made due to increasingly anti-humanitarian state legislation which endangers the dignity and safety of Florida residents and our members traveling to the state. We are actively looking into other conference options for 2024 and will alert ASGW members and presenters of upcoming plans. 

These new Florida laws, the environment of fear and intimidation that accompany the laws, and uncertainty regarding how the laws would be enforced, have had a chilling effect on our members’ enthusiasm for attending the conference. Travel advisories issued by the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and Equality Florida have brought to light the continuing injustices being imposed on marginalized populations in Florida. These Florida laws also stand in opposition to our professional counseling ethics and present issues of safety for ASGW members and conference attendees while in the state. For more information on these laws, please see linked resources below. 

ASGW has not come to this decision lightly; we have invested a great deal of time and money in Florida, and will pay a substantial financial penalty for breaking our contracts with the venue in Atlantic Beach. Conference planning requires a long timeframe with contracts signed years in advance of the event. At the time of signing the contracts, we could not have anticipated the changes in Florida law and their implications for residents and travelers to the state. While ASGW will be mindful of changes to state legislation for future conference sites, it is unlikely we will be able to cancel future conferences in the same manner, and will proceed accordingly. 

As it became clear that these laws made it impossible for ASGW to plan for, promote, and execute an enriching, professional development, and networking opportunity for group workers in Florida, we knew we needed to take action. We hope our members understand the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this decision and we ask for your patience as we try to figure out next steps. All conference proposals will still be reviewed, and potential presenters will be notified of our plans as soon as possible. 

The past few years of hostile legislation against marginalized populations reinforces the belief that through advocacy efforts we are stronger together! 

For questions and concerns, please contact: 

Julia Champe, ASGW President or Ashley Coombs, ASGW Conference Chair 

Information on Florida legislation 

In May 2023, the Governor signed into law SB1580 Protections of Medical Conscience, making it legal for health care providers to deny patient care on the basis of religious, moral, or ethical beliefs. While the law specifically states providers cannot discriminate on the basis of race or religion, other categories- disability, gender identity, sexuality and marital status- are not protected. Any conference attendee who may need medical care while attending the conference could be denied care under this law. While the odds of such an event happening are small, the potential harm is real and is a risk our ASGW members should not have to take to attend a professional conference. 

Another recent law, HB1521 Facility Requirements Based on Sex/Safety in Private Spaces Act, makes it a crime for an individual to use a bathroom that does not match their gender at birth. While the law does not apply to privately owned businesses, the law does apply to any entity owned by or funded by the state, including airports, parks, shopping malls, and other spaces commonly- and in the case of airports, unavoidably- frequented by tourists. This law directly impinges on ASGW members’ dignity, in addition to putting conference attendees in legal jeopardy.