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Competitive Workforce Act Aims To Prevent LGBTQ Discrimination, But How Far Should Lawmakers Go?

Supporters of the Competitive Workforce Act stand with Jennifer Webb (front left) at a press conference.
Casey Chapter

How far should Florida go to protect its LGBTQ community?  Two bills moving through the legislature have different answers.

Republican Senator Joe Gruters has proposed a bill that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals from discrimination in the workplace. Democratic Senator Darryl Rouson’s proposal provides protection in more spaces including public accommodations like hotels and restaurants.

Democratic Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg) is co-sponsoring Rouson’s bill. She says broader protections for the LGBTQ community are needed.

“What’s important to me as someone who is in the workforce is a little different from my elder LGBT community members who are concerned about access to housing, which is different from the trans community who’s concerned about public access," Webb said. "We know now that equity isn’t the same for everything... You need to include the whole package.”

Gruters says his bill is a first step. The last time the legislature took up expanded protections was in 2016. The proposal failed.

Casey Chapter is a graduate student at Florida State University studying Public Interest Media & Communication. She got her start in journalism at the FSView & Florida Flambeau, where she served as a reporter, News Editor, and eventually Managing Editor. She has previously reported on COVID-19 and K-12 education for the Tallahassee Democrat, and currently serves as the Managing Editor of the Florida Student News Watch, a journalism program that aims to get students and recent graduates' work published with a focus on environmental reporting.