A Tampa Bay area lawmaker says it’s time Florida adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the state’s 1992 Civil Rights Act.
Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, called on legislators to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which has been introduced year-after-year in the Legislature only to come up short in the legislative process.
“This inclusion makes it clear that all Floridians deserve equal rights in employment, housing and accommodations,” Rouson said at the state Capitol Thursday morning. “With a diverse population this fundamental protection in our state is long overdue.”
Rouson says it’s not just a moral issue, but also an economic issue. He points to the search being conducted by Amazon for a site to locate a second headquarters for the online shopping giant.
“When large corporations such as Amazon survey large metropolitan areas such as Tampa Bay, Jacksonville or Miami, to build headquarters or to bring jobs, they look at inclusivity of the region,” Rouson said. “It’s time for state law to reflect longstanding business practices and ensure nondiscrimination protection for all Floridians.”
Last month, a coalition of business leaders called Florida Competes urged House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to allow the bill to at least be heard in a committee in the 2018 session.
Despite having 70 co-sponsors in the 2017 legislative session–including 19 Republicans–the bill was never heard in a committee meeting.
“Not only is this measure the right thing to do for Florida, it brings our state in line with 18 other states that have already passed similar comprehensive nondiscrimination protections. It is time to send the message that all Floridians deserve the same basic civil rights,” coalition members said in a letter sent to the legislative leaders.
The coalition is made-up of 10 Fortune 500 companies, including: AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Raymond James, Tech Data, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo. Those companies are joined by 30 other major employers and more than 450 local businesses from across the state.
Absent a state law that provides protection to people based on sexual orientation and gender, a number of local governments in Florida have enacted their own ordinances.
Supporters of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act say it’s time Florida do the same, insisting it’s the right thing to do both morally and economically.