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LGBTQ advocates to highlight need for statewide anti-discrimination protections

Critics say several bills could endanger local anti-discrimination protections.

Advocacy groups and some openly gay Democratic state lawmakers plan to gather at the State Capitol Monday to push back on legislation they say is anti-LGBTQ. 

Reps. Shevrin Jones and Carlos Guillermo Smith, both openly gay Democrats, plan to speak out against a spate of bills filed at the last minute that could scale back protections for the LGBTQ community.

Republican lawmakers proposed several bills hours before the 2020 Legislative Session filing deadline, which critics say could thwart anti-discrimination protections. The bill sponsors deny they are targeting people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and some have made changes to accommodate concerns.

Two of the House bills have made it through initial committee stops, while others have yet to be heard.

House Majority Whip Michael Grant’s bill (CS/HB3) preempting local governments from imposing their own occupational and licensing requirements advanced through its first House committee last week. But groups like Equality Florida argue it could prohibit cities and counties from banning “conversion therapy,” which some believe can turn a gay person straight. LGBTQ advocates point to studies showing such therapy is dangerous to a person’s mental health. The bill’s Senate companion (SB 1336)  sponsored by State Sen. Keith Perry is set for a hearing Monday. 

Grant amended his bill so it doesn’t threaten local conversion therapy bans and Perry also filed a conforming amendment on his bill.

Rep. Bob Rommel’s bill (HB 305) preempts local governments’ right to regulate employment conditions, which activists worry could lead to a repeal of anti-discrimination protections due to sexual orientation and gender identity. Sen. Joe Gruter’s Senate companion bill (SB 1126) is yet to be heard in committee. He said his bill doesn’t authorize an employer to discriminate against people protected from discrimination by federal law.

Bills sponsored by State Reps. Anthony Sabatini of Howey-in-the-Hills and Byron Donalds of Naples have not yet been put on a committee agenda. Sabatini’s legislation (HB 1365) and Sen. Dennis Baxley’s companion bill would make it a felony for doctors to change the sex of a minor. Sabatini took to his Facebook page to argue sexual reassignment surgery on minors constitutes child abuse. Meanwhile, transgender rights supporters contend the legislation would criminalize medical care for transgender youth. 

Sabatini thinks his legislation should be bipartisan.

Donalds’ bill (HB 537) and its Perry’s companion (SB 778) include language that could enable conversion therapy even where cities and counties have already passed ordinances against it, as long as the therapy occurs in a home. Neither have come up for a committee vote.

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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