Last month the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners voted to include the LGBT community to other protected classes in connection with employment, public accommodations, real estate transactions and county contracting and procurement. The move was hailed by activists who have considered the county to be somewhat in the dark ages when it came to LGBT rights.
But in fact it’s still legal to discriminate against gays in Florida, something that Representative Holly Raschein (R- Key Largo) and Democratic Whip Senator Joseph Abruzzo (D- Boynton Beach) hope to change with legislation they filed today in the Florida House and Senate respectively that would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in employment, housing and public accommodations.
They’re calling the bill the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA), and it would amend Chapter 760 of the Florida State Statutes that currently prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The bill would add protections for more than 536,000 LGBT adults living in Florida.
“Despite overwhelming public support and the passage of local equal rights ordinances throughout the state, there is no statewide law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, in a statement.
“Most people are actually surprised to discover these protections don’t already exist because it seems such common sense,” said Smith. “Updating the law will help ensure that all people in our state have the opportunity to be judged on their job performance and qualifications, nothing more, nothing less.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, only twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 18 states and D.C. also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
Last year Rep. Raschein served as the prime co-sponsor of the bill and helped to secure more than 10 GOP co-sponsors.
“All hardworking people—including those who are gay or transgender—should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state and should have the opportunity to earn a living to provide for themselves and their families. Nobody should have to live in fear of being fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance,” Representative Raschein said in a statement.