Florida business leaders lobby for Equality Act

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and several Tampa sports franchises are among prominent signatories.

More than 20 Florida businesses signed onto a letter calling for Congress to pass the Equality Act.

Industry leaders, including a significant number in the tech and hospitality sector, say Florida’s economy stands to gain if the federal government puts nationwide job protections in place the Florida Legislature has so far failed to advance.

“Passage of the Equality Act isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the smart thing to do economically,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Florida-based businesses co-signing the letter include such major job suppliers as BlueGrace Logistics, Carlton Fields, Citrix, Office Depot and Owens Corning.

Sports teams including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lightning, Rays and Rowdies all signed onto the effort. So did businesses with a major presence in the state like AirBnB.

The Florida businesses join more than 400 nationwide signing onto similar efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers.

President Joe Biden has already committed to sign the Equality Act into law. The letter notes a Supreme Court decision last year already putting many job protections in place, but said full civil rights protections must still be enacted.

“In the United States today, LGBTQ people remain vulnerable to discrimination in key areas of daily life, including housing, healthcare and public spaces like restaurants and shops,” the letter reads. “While the Supreme Court recently ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that current federal law already bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Equality Act would codify those protections into law and ensure that LGBTQ Americans are protected in all areas of daily life.”

Of note, the Florida Legislature has seen a growing number of bipartisan co-sponsors each year for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, a state version of the Equality Act, but the legislation has never been passed out of a committee in the House, and has only once been placed on an agenda.

The U.S. House has passed the Equality Act, with Florida’s House delegation breaking along party lines with all Democrats voting for it and all Republicans voting against it. That’s despite Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican, voting for a prior version of the legislation in the last Congress.

The Senate has yet to take up the legislation.

Notably, Florida-based consulting firm Ballard Partners has signed on with Freedom for All Americans to lobby Congress in favor of the legislation,

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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