Florida Republicans, Democrats Inching Closer On Climate Change And LGBTQ Rights

Sep 20, 2019

This is one of many signs carried by advocates during the Student Climate Strike at the Old Capitol building in Tallahassee.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

Florida Republicans are beginning to lend their voice to traditionally liberal issues like climate change and LGBTQ rights.

Lawmakers gathered to discuss climate change in a press conference.
Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU

Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa,  is backing the Competitive Workforce Act. She spoke in support of the bill alongside other lawmakers during a press conference.

Protecting LGBT people from discrimination isn’t a red or blue issue. It’s a human issue,” says Toledo.

The bill was last sponsored by Florida Republican Party Chairman  and Sen. Joe Gruters, but it died in the 2019 legislative session. Toledo is now taking up the mantle. She says without anti-discrimination legislation, big corporations might not move to Florida.

“As a proud conservative, standing up against discrimination is natural because we value individual freedom, hard work, and opportunity for all."

Toledo is joined by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg,  who is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill.

Florida Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani speaks during a press conference on climate change.
Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU

“The Competitive Workforce Act does nothing more than prohibit LGBT Floridians from being fired from their job or being denied public housing or accommodations,” he says.

That’s not the only issue bringing Republicans and Democrats together. Republican House Speaker -Designate Chris Sprowls says it’s time to take climate change more seriously.

“We need to stop being afraid of words like ‘climate change’ and ‘sea level rise.’ Frankly, we do this too often as conservatives,” Sprowls said in his first address as Speaker-Designate to the chamber.

That attitude is something climate change advocates are glad to see. Students skipped school to participate in a strike for ‘Climate Justice.’ Charlotte Stuart-Tilley is a student who helped organize Tallahassee’s strike. 

Charlotte Stuart-Tilley has been organizing student strikes since January 2019.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

“This is a school strike for the climate or fighters for the future. We are a group of students who are striking for the climate. We are refusing to go to school on an account of a lack of action against the climate crisis,” says Stuart-Tilley.

Helen Rose, Director of Religious Exploration at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee,  says there aren’t enough conservatives joining the cause.

Helen Rose attended the strike in support of Charlotte Stuart-Tilley who is one of the youth at The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

“It’s becoming more and more common sense. It’s becoming more and more ridiculous to not be on board. So, a little bit but not as much as it should be.” 

Meanwhile state Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani and Sen. José Javier Rodriguez are refiling a bill put Florida on a path toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. They call Sprowl’s words a good sign.