As the U.S. Senate prepares to pass a bill banning discrimination against gay and transgendered workers, a similar piece of legislation has been filed by Florida lawmakers. The bill has failed many times before in Florida, but sponsors insist this year is different.
Florida law already prohibits employers, landlords and providers of goods and services from discriminating against someone or harassing them because of their race, religion or other attributes. The bill adds gender identity and sexual orientation to that list.
For the second year in a row, Rep. Joe Saunders (D-Orlando), one of the Legislature’s few openly gay lawmakers, is cosponsoring what he calls the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.
He says, the bill is needed because “countless employees still live or work in places where placing a picture of their family on their desk can lead to legalized harassment, denial of promotion or the unemployment line.”
Democrats have filed the bill every year for a decade, but without strong bipartisan support, such a measure never stood a chance.
“Last year we had a breakthrough year,” Saunders says.
He is partnering with Rep. Holly Raschein (R- Key West).
“And it happened because a member of the other side of the aisle came to me and she said that she wanted to bring her party to the table of equal opportunity,” he says.
Saunders says he believes the bill has enough support to pass the full House. Raschein, though, says she’s working on getting more Republican sponsors to sign on. Her message to them? It’s good for the economy.
“Protecting Florida’s workforce from all forms of discrimination will help us draw the best and the brightest to our state both internationally and nationally,” she says.
Republican Representatives Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers and Dave Hood from Daytona Beach also pledged their support at a Tuesday press conference announcing the bill. On the Senate side, the bill’s lone sponsor is Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington).