Equality Florida is calling on state lawmakers to pass protections for LGBTQ Floridians in the 2020 Legislative Session.
The Florida Competitive Workforce Act has been filed every Session for about a decade. It would prohibit discrimination statewide against sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.
But advocates say the legislation doesn’t have the support of committee chairs or the leadership in either chamber. And they sharply criticize the movement of bills they say threaten local anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ community. The bills’ sponsors deny they are targeting people based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and some have made changes to accommodate concerns.
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 Gruters has the Senate companion (SB 1126). He said his bill doesn’t authorize an employer to discriminate against people protected from discrimination by federal law.
House Majority Whip Michael Grant’s bill (HB 3) preempts local governments from imposing their own occupational and licensing requirements. It advanced through its first House committee last week. But Equality Florida argues it could prohibit cities and counties from banning “conversion therapy,” and would undo existing local bans of the medically dubious practice. 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 Sen. Keith Perry was considered in committee today.
But, as Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith noted, some of the bill sponsors like Grant and Perry have filed amendments to address concerns.
It wasn’t their intent, but many local nondiscrimination ordinances for LGBTQ people were caught up in their preemptions, he said.
But Smith and Rep. Shevrin Jones, who are both openly gay, blasted as hurtful the transgender legislation sponsored by Rep. Anthony Sabatini and Sen. Dennis Baxley, both Republicans. Sabatini’s legislation (HB 1365) and Baxley’s companion bill would make it a felony for doctors to change the sex of a minor. Jones points out that under the bill, a doctor that performs a gender related surgery on a child could face felony charges and prison time.
“I’m sad standing here today,” Jones said. “Because looking at the transgender bill that was filed in a legislative body that professes that you want to unclog a criminal justice system, but yet and still you want to give doctors 15 years. Shame on you.”
Sabatini has argued on his Facebook page that the surgeries are child abuse.
Advocates also say that state funding shouldn’t go to schools that don’t accept anti-LGTBQ students or parents. Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani has legislation (HB 45) that would end school choice vouchers going to those schools.