Miami Republicans Vote Down LGBTQ Protections Yet Again

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Florida for two whole years, yet under state law, employers in the Sunshine State are still well within their rights to fire or refuse to hire people solely because they're gay. Likewise, landlords can boot tenants or refuse to rent to them based on their sexual orientation.

Don't expect that to change anytime soon. A House bill adding sexual orientation to the state's nondiscrimination clause is all but dead after getting passed over in committee. And a mostly symbolic shot at adding the protections to new statewide ridesharing regulations also died, thanks in no small measure to seven Miami-area GOP reps who voted against it.

The vote came about thanks to another Miami-area rep, David Richardson, the first openly gay member of the Florida Legislature.

Yesterday Richardson tried to add new language to a bill that would regulate Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies to ban discrimination based on a host of reasons, including "sexual orientation or gender identity." Richardson told reporters he simply wanted to ensure that people like him could use ridesharing services without fear of being treated differently.

"It's not going to give me as a member of the gay community protection and afford me the opportunity to use a transportation network company," Richardson told the Tampa Bay Times.

That was a bridge too far for the state's Republican-controlled House, however. Richardson's amendment was struck down on a mostly party-line-based 77-44 vote, including every Republican from Miami-Dade.

Just for the record, that means these guys: Jeannette Nunez, Holly Raschein, Carlos Trujillo, Bryan Avila, Michael Bileca, Jose Diaz, and Manny Diaz Jr. (Rep. Jose Oliva didn't vote.)

Of course, Richardson's move was mostly about symbolism: Both Uber and Lyft already have corporate policies that forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But it was one way to force a vote with state Republicans again refusing to give the larger issue a legitimate hearing — although, for the first time, 17 Republicans did sign on to the House's Competitive Workforce Act, which would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The issue remains one of the biggest fault lines between state Republicans and the big-business interests they generally bend over backward to accommodate; in past years, everyone from Disney World to Carnival Cruise Line, Winn-Dixie, and AT&T have urged adding sexual orientation to statewide protections. They argue that lacking those protections hurts their ability to draw top-flight workers to Florida.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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