A proposal to ban LGBT discrimination in Florida is effectively dead.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the bipartisan Florida Competitive Workforce Act has not had a hearing, and is unlikely to receive a vote in the 2020 session:
One obstacle standing in its way is House Speaker José Oliva, who fears that prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace could lead to a flood of litigation.
A person’s sexual orientation isn’t evident like it is for race or gender, presenting a challenge for employers, he said.
“It is very possible that an employer does not know of a person’s sexual orientation,” said Oliva, R-Miami Lakes. “Then you could get in an event where somebody could lose their job and then they might claim it is based on something that somebody did not know to begin with.”
He doesn’t see a need for legislative action.
“This is not a major problem throughout Florida,” Oliva said. “Florida is a tremendously inclusive, immensely diverse state.”
Oliva’s statement contradicts the findings of a 2017 study from UCLA’s Williams Institute, which found widespread LGBT discrimination in the Sunshine State.
“Florida’s legal landscape and social climate contribute to an environment in which LGBT adults experience stigma and discrimination in employment and other areas, and LGBT youth experience bullying in schools and family rejection,” the study’s authors concluded. “Such experiences have a negative impact on LGBT individuals in terms of health and economic stability, which in turn have economic consequences for the state. If Florida were to take steps toward a more supportive legal landscape and social climate, the state’s economy would likely benefit.”
Meanwhile, some GOP lawmakers in Florida are working to roll back local LGBT protections, according to a Jan. 28 report from Equality Florida:
Today Florida Legislators advanced a bill which would have dangerous effects on local LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in employment across the state. Despite strong opposition from Equality Florida and advocates, the Florida House Subcommittee on Local, Federal, and Veterans Affairs voted 10-5 on a party line to move State Representative Bob Rommel’s HB 305 to its final committee. As filed, the bill would roll back local LGBTQ protections that currently cover nearly 60% of the state’s population. …
“Lawmakers should oppose HB 305 and instead pass the broadly supported, bipartisan-led Florida Competitive Workforce Act to establish statewide nondiscrimination protections. This is one of the most co-sponsored bills year after year. It is time for leadership to bring this legislation to the floor and for the Governor to sign it into law. Everyone should be able to earn a living, including the LGBTQ community.”
In related news, Speaker Oliva is downplaying a recent controversy over LGBT discrimination by private schools that receive taxpayer funding through a state voucher program, calling it “scare tactics.” After an Orlando Sentinel investigation exposed the discrimination, two of the nation’s largest banks ended their financial support for the voucher program.
“The one thing that we are not going to do is have a situation where children who now finally have [a] great opportunity are now going to be ripped from those schools,” Oliva said this week. “What is happening in this situation, is that a few at the Orlando Sentinel have always taken issue with programs that are proven to continually increase the lives of poor and minority children, and are using this angle as nothing more than a ruse to create scare tactics and trample on the constitutional rights we all enjoy — the freedom of religion, and the freedom of speech.”