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New Legislation in Florida Advocating For LGBTQ Rights Draws Controversy & Division

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A new bill to amend the Florida Civil Rights Act to include gender identity and sexual orientation–called the “Florida Inclusion Workforce Act”–was filed in the Florida Senate on January 23, and prohibits employers and labor organizations from discriminating against job applicants or employees based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

However, the bill isn’t being celebrated by all gay and transgender advocates, and is, in fact, drawing controversy from some. Some have complained that it doesn’t go far enough because it does not bar private businesses or landlords from discriminating against gay and transgender individuals. They argue that the bill does not, and should, provide protection for the LGBTQ community in public spaces.

Supplemental Legislation to Address Discrimination in Public Spaces

Conversely, there are some in Florida who believe that perhaps addressing the issue of anti-discrimination in three separate bills instead of one would be more effective. To that effect, on January 22, bills outlawing housing and employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation—titled the “Florida Competitive Workforce Act[s]” —were also filed in the Florida Legislature.

An Uphill Battle in Florida

Florida currently does not currently have any statewide non-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ community. Although a number of local governments in Florida have already codified LGBTQ protections into law, these bills also likely face uphill battles, as Florida fought gay marriage for years, debated a transgender bathroom bill four years ago, and even refused to pay for a memorial for the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016. In addition, Governor DeSantis recently signed an anti-discrimination order for state employees that explicitly excluded any protections for the LGBTQ community. While the order protects those discriminated against based on age, color, disability, marital status, national origin, race, religion, or sex, it does not include gender identity or sexual orientation.

What Do We Already Have?

Following the monumental 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that states could not deny same-sex couples the right to marry; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a decision stating that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Since then, court decisions on the issue have varied, sometimes finding that it is covered, while sometimes that it is not.

Contact Our Florida Civil Rights Attorneys

If your civil rights have been violated here in Florida, contact our civil rights attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help. Regardless of whether new legislation passes, the U.S. and Florida Constitutions protect your rights as a U.S. and Florida citizen. Still, if these bills pass, over one million LGBT Americans would likely gain additional protections that must be enforced in the workplace and public places.



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