State Lawmakers Introduce Non-Discrimination Bill
Two state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would ban discrimination against LGBT Floridians in the workplace, public accommodations and housing.
State Sen. Nan Rich (D-Sunrise) and state Rep. Scott Randolph (D-Orlando) introduced the Florida Competitive Workforce Act-Senate Bill 340 and House Bill 247-in Tallahassee earlier this month. Randolph said his bill would improve the quality of life of LGBT Floridians and extend additional economic opportunities to them.
"The Florida Competitive Workforce Act would greatly improve that quality of life for our state’s growing GLBT population," said Randolph, noting a Human Rights Campaign report that shows 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies have already adopted LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies. "They do so, because diversity is good for business and they want to recruit top talent to make their companies more successful."
Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach and Volusia Counties and the cities of Dunedin, Gainesville, Gulfport, Key West, Lake Worth, Miami Beach, North Miami, Oakland Park, Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, Sarasota and Tampa have already adopted ordinances that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
"The Florida Competitive Workforce Act will not only ensure equal protection of the law for all Floridians," said Rich. "It will also show that Florida understands that the one of the best ways to grow our economy is to ensure we have a diverse workforce that capitalizes on the skills, perspectives and talents of all our people."
LGBT activists across the state welcomed Rich and Randolph’s bill.
"Passing the FCWA would help to improve Florida’s reputation nationally and internationally as a welcoming place to live, work and play," said Mallory Wells, director of public policy for Equality Florida. "Cities and counties all over Florida are doing the same. 10.2 million Floridians live in a place that has protections based on sexual orientation, and 5.98 million live in a place with gender identity and expression protections. It’s time for Florida to do what its own cities and leading businesses are already doing and adopt protections for everyone."
Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith added she feels Florida’s economy and especially its lucrative tourism industry would actually suffer if lawmakers fail to pass these bills.
"Florida suffers economically when it comes to attracting and retaining the best and the brightest in our workforce. Universities have lost or failed to recruit top talent - both students and professors," she said. "Businesses that rely on a highly skilled workforce have given Florida a look but gone elsewhere because quality of life-including respect for diversity-are important indicators of how competitive the workforce in Florida will be. Passage of the bill would go a long way in improving Florida’s national and international reputation as a welcoming place to live, work and visit."
It remains to be seen, however, whether the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature will even take up these measures.
Randolph remains optimistic that the bill stands a "real chance" of passing once the Republican majority understands the potential economic implications. "Once they see the connection between fair employment and economic growth, common sense would suggest they should support the measure," he said.
Economics are only one of the bill’s considerations.
"It is unimaginable that in this day in age, Florida law still allows businesses to fire their employees simply for being who they are," said Randolph. "Not only is it wrong, but it also sends a terrible message to a community that has made invaluable contributions to our society, our culture, and our everyday lives. It’s even more important during these challenging economic times that we do not let the fear of discrimination prevent anyone from bringing their business, their family, or their talents to our state."
"Ending discrimination in employment is absolutely critical. Local ordinances are important but we have to move beyond a patchwork quilt of protections that vary city by city and county by county," he said. "Our rights shouldn’t vary from one end of the state to the other."