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LGBTQ Rights Advocates Seek Support From Business Community

Valerie Crowder

Building on momentum from Bay County’s first Pride Festival in June, advocates for LGBTQ equality met with about a dozen local employers in Panama City on Wednesday to discuss workplace inclusivity. 

  “We intend to capitalize on the good will and good vibe from Pride,” said Cindy Wilker, board president of The LGBTQ Center of Bay County. “We will continue to educate the business community about the economic value of the LGBTQ community.” 


Last month’s Pride Festival attracted support from about 2,000 attendees and sponsorships from about 20 employers, the Center estimates. 


Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, held Wednesday’s business luncheon in Panama City to bring some of those supporters together for a discussion on workplace non-discrimination policies, said Rene Cantu, business outreach manager. 


The organization has been organizing business luncheons across the state for years. They’ve increased the number this year to help garner support for extending state anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ people through the Competitive Workforce Act, Cantu said. 


“When you get the support of the business community, you’re really able to move the needle more that way,” Cantu said. “The more we’re able to talk to the business community, the easier it is to  ask them to make phone calls or sign on to a group letter that supports what we’re trying to do.”


The legislation has gone before state lawmakers for the last 11 years. Earlier this year, the legislation had 73 cosponsors and bipartisan support, but both the house and senate bills died in committee.   Still, Cantu says he’s hopeful it will pass in the next legislative session. “We’re getting closer and closer to…passage of that, and we’re trying to get even closer this coming year,” Cantu said.