Could An Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination Bill Be Passed Next Year in Florida?

Did you know that in much of Florida, a person can be fired or not hired simply because they are gay, bisexual or transgender? 

Yes, blatant discrimination is still perfectly legal even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage to be legal more than four years ago. 

Currently, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, backed by big business, is yet again trying to change that.

Multiple Tampa Bay-area legislators have introduced bills for the 2020 legislative session that would prohibit businesses from discriminating against their employees on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Both Senate Bill 206, sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and House Bill 161 would amend the state’s Civil Rights Act of 1992 to prohibit such discrimination. The act already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age or handicap.

The bills also would prohibit businesses and landlords from discriminating for those same reasons, but the language allows for discrimination for religious reasons.

For nearly a decade now, lawmakers have tried to pass an anti-LGBTQ discrimination bill, but the efforts have not made headway in Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature.

This leaves many questioning if this is the year change will happen. The public policy director for Equality Florida, created in 1997, which advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community, said 60 percent of Floridians are protected from discrimination by ordinances passed by cities and counties, including Hillsborough and Pinellas and all three counties in South Florida.

The issue has widespread bipartisan support with recent polling showing nearly 70 percent of both Americans and Floridians back protections against anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Twenty states have already passed similar legislation.

Dubbed the “Competitive Workforce Act,” lawmakers are selling the legislation as not just the right thing to do, but as a way to lure businesses to Florida.

Some of the biggest political donors in the state, such as Disney and NextEra Energy, the parent company of Florida Power & Light, strongly support it. 

Those companies and more than 450 others have created a nonprofit to advocate for the bill, arguing that anti-LGBTQ discrimination costs the state an estimated $362 million a year in lost productivity, turnover and inability or difficulty recruiting employees.

Last year, the bills were co-sponsored by nearly half of all lawmakers, but Republican leadership in both chambers prevented the bills from getting a hearing in any committee.

Neither House Speaker José Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, nor Gov. Ron DeSantis responded to requests for comment about where they stand on next year’s bills.

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in three cases that deal with whether it’s legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Without statewide laws, being fired for being gay or transgender remains a real fear for many Floridians.

Discriminating against someone in the workplace due to their sexual orientation or gender identity is still a major issue in the United States, as this article points out quite clearly. Our Florida Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Melton firmly believe that no one should be discriminated against, regardless of who they are or what their sexual orientation is.

Examples of LGBTQ discrimination can include:

  • Being harassed by your boss or co-workers because of your sexual preference
  • Your co-workers or employer making derogatory comments about homosexual, transgender, or bisexual individuals
  • Being denied a promotion because of your sexual preference
  • Being treated differently by your boss because of your sexual orientation
  • Being denied insurance or other work benefits because of your sexual orientation

A federal appeals court recently ruled that the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination against LGBTQ employees. While the court decided that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination,” there are still no federal laws that make it clear that LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace is against the law. Several states have passed bills to protect these workers, but most states are still without any type of anti-discrimination laws. 

The following states currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

The following states currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity:

  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Wisconsin

Our Florida Discrimination Lawyers at Whittel & Melton help clients throughout the state of Florida with workplace discrimination and harassment cases. If you are suffering at work because you are being discriminated against because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, we may be able to help. 

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