States reps file legislation to protect LGBT community

There is a new bipartisan agreement to pass a bill protecting Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, announced filed legislation with co-sponsor Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday.

“The bill is about ensuring all Floridians are judged based on the work they do, not who they are or what their family looks like,” Saunders said.

“I’m honored to see so many legislators from both sides of the aisle standing with me to call out discrimination and in support of equal opportunity.”

The Florida Competitive Workforce Act adds sexual orientation and gender identity into Chapter 760 of the Florida State Statutes, which currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex national origin, age, handicap or marital status.

Saunders said the bill has been presented in many forms for about 10 years.

“It’s time for the patchwork of non-discrimination protections for Florida’s LGBT community to be replaced with the certainty that can only come from a statewide law,” Saunders said.

According to a document provided by Saunders, employment discrimination against LGBT Floridians causes suffering and results in qualified individuals being denied their right to work.

Raschein said she believes protecting Florida’s workforce from all forms of discrimination will attract the most intellectual and talented workers.

She said the policy represents the direction Florida needs to move in if it is going to continue to have a strong pro-business outlook.

“I’m proud to support a bill that will allow Florida to be competitive both nationally and internationally,” Raschein said.

Some Florida A&M students look forward to the implementation of FCWA and are eager to bring equality to the LGBT community.

Ana Sanz, a junior fine arts student from Miami who is the secretary of FAMU’s LGBT Student Pride Union, said it is about time a bill was created for the LGBTQ+ community.

“The LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer+) community in Florida has suffered more than enough on a day-to-day basis due to the rigid conservative fractions that aid in manifesting prejudice policies that limit their ability of being a healthy and safe working member of Florida’s workforce,” Sanz said.

He said no one should face discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“These are facades of one’s identity that shouldn’t degrade the content of their character,” Sanz said. “Consciously marginalizing a group of people for this aspect is in no way highlighting the capability of their work ethic or giving them the utmost respect as citizens. This hinders Florida as a growing and competitive stance in several industries, all due to simple ignorance.”

Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, said the FCWA is extremely important, especially for Florida.

“We should not allow legal discrimination against qualified employees,” Abruzzo said. “The private sector has been a leader in this issue for the last decade. Eighty-four percent of the nation’s largest companies already have these policies for their best interest. They want the most qualified employee and to retain those employees.”

Documents distributed at the press conference said the FCWA is needed to help support LGBT tourism in Florida.

Community Marketing Inc. said the impact of LGBT travelers account for an estimated $70 billion per year in the United States alone. 

While many Florida communities have passed strong local anti-discrimination policies, state law currently fails to protect Floridians against sexual orientation and gender identity workplace discrimination.