Same sex marriage is now legal in Florida, but that doesn't mean the state is now a haven for gay rights. In fact, it's still perfectly legal for an employee to fire someone simply for being gay in the state unless there are local protections in place.
Now a bill has been filed that would protect LGBT citizens from employment discrimination in every corner of the state.
Dubbed the "Florida Competitive Workforce Act," the bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of traits of which it would be illegal to discriminate against. Race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status are already protected. The bill would provide some exceptions for religion.
Sen. Joe Abruzzo, a Democrat from Wellington, has filed the bill in the Senate, while Rep. Holly Raschein, a young Key Largo moderate Republican, has filed the bill in the House. A coalition of Florida's biggest business have also joined forces under the name Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce to support the bill including the Miami Heat, Darden (the parent company of Olive Garden), Walt Disney World Resorts, Florida Blue and Winn-Dixie (et tu Publix?).
"We want Florida to draw high paying jobs and top talent," said Florida Competes campaign manager Ashley Walker in a statement. "Passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act sends the message that we are ready for business, and we do not discriminate in our state."
Some Floridians already live in localities where local governments have already enacted such laws. Though only 29 local governments have done so, and most are located in South Florida. Miami-Dade County, for example, made headlines late last year for finally adding basic protections for transgender citizens as well.
Perhaps you're thinking, well Florida allows gay people to get married now, so this should pass pretty easily, right? Eh, not so fast. Similar bills have been filed in the legislature for the past eight years and have been routinely ignored by the Florida legislature.
So passage, or even the bill being heard in committee, is no guarantee.
For example one Republican legislator, Sen. Nancy Detert ofSarasota, tells the Palm Beach Post that she's worried that "cross-dressing" employees will cause disruptions, and that the bill will only be used as an opportunity not to protect people's rights but give people more reasons to suit when being fired.
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