Florida businesses can fire employees based on sexual orientation without legally violating their rights, for now. Senate Bill 120, proposed by Democratic Sen. Joseph Abruzzo of Boynton Beach, was voted unfavorable after the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee reached a 5-5 vote on Feb. 9.
SB 120, also known as the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, seeks to revise the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, which currently excludes members of the LGBT community. According to Florida state law, things like employment and housing can be legally denied based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Current anti-discrimination laws only protect race, color, religion, sex, nationality, age, handicap or marital status.
Despite coming to a deadlock in committee, SB 120 has gained an immense amount of support from many organizations.
The Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce coalition, a group of over 400 businesses around the state, recently released a statement expressing its appreciation for the hearing.
“We are proud to have had this pro-business legislation heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and to have secured strong support from Republicans and Democrats on this pro-business issue. We will continue to educate elected officials that in order for our state to remain competitive in the global marketplace,” Patrick Slevin, campaign manager for the FBCW, said.
Selvin emphasized the importance of ending all discrimination in the workplace.
“We must eliminate any and all discrimination in the workplace, in housing and in public accommodations. We are confident that Florida leaders will do the right thing and end this state sanctioned discrimination,” Slevin said.
Several Fortune 500 companies also showed support, taking the lead in promoting an inclusive work environment and equality among employees. Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, stressed the importance of diversity in business.
“Diversity is a business imperative. The key to innovation is diversity of thinking … having people from different backgrounds and different cultural experiences who are organized around a common objective are far more likely to create breakthrough innovation than a homogenous group. That same diversity of thinking is a powerful advantage,” Donald said.
Although the bill has been delayed, gay rights advocacy groups are adamant about finally getting anti-discrimination legislation for the LGBT community.
“These delay tactics just indicate that some of these Republican senators are going to be on the wrong side of history,” Carloss Guillermo Smith, government affairs manager for Equality Florida, said. “They couched their opposition to the bill on phony hypotheticals and irrational fears that serve to dehumanize transgender people in particular. But, that’s not gonna stop us from moving forward we are gonna file this bill again next year.”
If passed, SB 120 would make Florida the first southern state and one of only 22 states nationwide to pass such legislation.