It’s a lesson every person should be taught as many times as it takes them to learn it: it’s never OK to discriminate against another person, especially over things that were determined the day they were born.
The Florida Legislature needs a refresher course from time to time, but this year lawmakers are showing a bit of progress.
A bill filed by Sen. Randolph Bracy (SB 566) would prohibit housing discrimination against people who sport hairstyles and textures traditionally associated with race — think braids, locks and twists.
Likewise, Sen. Oscar Braynon is sponsoring legislation (SB 644) to block housing discrimination based on height or weight, affording it the same treatment as discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicaps and marital status.
These bills aren’t long shots. Bracy’s bill already cleared the Senate Community Affairs Committee. More importantly, it got a hearing.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about another major anti-discrimination bill that’s been proposed for several Legislative Sessions in a row: The Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would protect LGBTQ Floridians from being fired or denied housing based their sexual orientation.
The merits of the FCWA have been outlined too many times to count, but here they are again: A supermajority of Floridians want these protections; some of the state’s biggest employers do, too; economic engines such as universities say it’ll help them add ever more brilliant minds to their faculty rosters; and major out-of-state corporations such as Amazon have intimated that a lack of these protections has kept them from setting up shop in the Sunshine State.
Despite all there is to gain, the bill goes unheard.
The House effort (HB 141) is awaiting a hearing in the Civil Justice Committee, but it has not been placed on the agenda. The Senate companion (SB 206) is in a similar position as it waits for a hearing in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability.
The snub continues despite more Republican lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature signing on as co-sponsors every year the FCWA is put forward.
The 2020 effort has nine Republican co-sponsors in the House and one of them, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, chairs one of the bill’s three committees of reference — the bill could sprout legs if it gets help making the difficult first step.
All this to say, Florida lawmakers should hear Bracy’s bill, and they should hear Braynon’s bill, too.
But if they are willing to consider adding protections for hairstyles, height or weight, they should be willing to consider adding protections for their family members, neighbors, constituents and even fellow lawmakers who have spent years fighting for them.