Backed by Big Business, Republican Files Bill to Protect LGBT Floridians From Workplace Discrimination

You can now get married to your same-sex partner in Florida, but it's still perfectly legal in much of the state to get fired or denied housing simply for being gay. Legislators, mostly Democrats, have tried for the past ten years to pass a law that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment and housing to no avail in the Republican-controlled Florida legislature.

Even last year, when a consortium of some of Florida's biggest employers backed the bill and got a conservative lawmaker to sponsor it, the bill went nowhere. But the same interests are going to try again this year. 

State Rep. Holly Raschein, a Republican from Key Largo, filed the Florida Competitive Workforce Act this week. Raschein co-sponsored the bill in 2014 and 2015 with openly gay Democrat Rep. Joe Saunders. (He lost re-election to his Orlando-area seat last November). State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, a Democrat from Wellington, is sponsoring the senate version. 

β€œAt my core, I feel this is the right thing to do,” Raschein, 34, told the Miami Herald. β€œI can be just as conservative as I want to be and still believe in eliminating discrimination of LGBT people.”

Behind the bill is the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce. That's a group that includes businesses like Walt Disney World, the Miami Heat, Winn-Dixie, Carnival Cruise Line, Home Shopping Network, Raymond James, Wells Fargo, and more. 

The bill would add protections on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression to the state's existing anti-discrimination laws that already cover things like race, religion, and sex. 

Last year the bill didn't go far. The senate version died in the Judiciary Committee, its first stop. The house version died similarly died in its first stop, the Civil Justice Subcommittee. Neither committee seriously discussed the matter either, despite the fact that it's 2015. 

Several local governments already have various levels of protections for LGBT residents. In fact, 55 percent of Floridians already live in areas where such discrimination has been outlawed locally. (Though, it's unclear how many live in an area with trans-inclusive, anti-discrimination laws.) However, that still leaves many LGBT Floridians open to discrimination. 
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Kyle Munzenrieder